Italy Dismisses Entire City Government over Suspected Mafia Ties

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Antonino Condorelli / Reuters

Officers of Italy's Carabiniere escort suspected 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate boss Pasquale Condello (C) into a waiting helicopter at a police school in Reggio Calabria February 19, 2008.

Italian leaders evidently have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to mafia rumors. On Tuesday, Italy’s cabinet fired the entire city government of Reggio Calabria, including its mayor and all 30 councilors, amid suspicions that some may be connected to the mob, Reuters reports.

The mass dismissal was sparked by allegations that some council members maintained ties with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, which many believe is even bigger than the notorious Sicilian Cosa Nostra, according to the BBC. Three commissioners will now manage Reggio Calabria until the next elections in 18 months.

(MORE: Italy Braces for a New Mafia War)

The BBC reports that Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said the officials were fired to prevent any mafia “contagion” in the provincial capital.

“It’s a preventative act and not a punishment,” Cancellieri said in an announcement Tuesday, as reported by the AFP. “This was a painful decision carried out in the interests of the city.”

According to the BBC’s Alan Johnston, citizens have long voiced concerns about ‘Ndrangheta’s power over the city council, and a formal investigation was opened after one councilor was arrested last year on charges of mafia association.

‘Ndrangheta is believed to earn its revenue primarily through cocaine dealing, extortion and money laundering, and the Italian parliament’s anti-mafia commission has called the group the wealthiest and most dangerous mob in the country, the BBC notes. Johnston says the Calabria-based group has criminal ties across Europe, as well as in Colombia and Canada. AFP reports that ‘Ndrangheta has a turnover of billions of euros per year. Many feared that the syndicate could soon wield direct control over Reggio Calabria, which has a population of 180,000, according to Reuters.

Although smaller towns in southern Italy have had their governments dissolved over alleged mafia links, Tuesday marks the first time a regional capital has seen its leaders dismissed in such a way, Reuters reports.

Eight people, including seven suspected gangsters, were arrested in Reggio Calabria on Wednesday, according to AFP, and 22 alleged ‘Ndrangheta associates were arrested the same day in the northern region of Lombardy.

MORE: Italy vs. the Mafia: Beheading the ‘Ndrangheta