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Italian police hold 17 in migrant trafficking bust

Rome, July 2 (IANS/AKI) Police in Palermo, the capital of Italy’s Sicily on Monday said they arrested 17 mafia suspects with Balkan links who are accused of trafficking illegal immigrants, weapons of war and of laundering diamonds, gold and cash.

“The criminal gang headed by the suspects living in Palermo was also operating in the provinces of Sondrio, Como, Pordenone and Siena as well as in Switzerland, Germany, Macedonia and Kosovo,” investigators said.

Police were carrying out searches across Italy as part of the operation.

The alleged gang had links to the Sicilian mafia and to a Kosovan paramilitary group called New Uck, which was responsible for a deadly attack in the Macedonian city of Kumanova in 2015, according to investigators.

The gang used bogus contracts of employment to traffick migrants from the Balkans to Sicily, Switzerland, and also to other European Union countries, said investigators.

Monday’s operation followed a probe that began in December 2016 with the investigation of a Macedonian national, Fatmir Ljatifi, who was resident in the town of Bolognetta outside Palermo.

–IANS/AKI

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