Italy sacks Reggio Calabria council over 'mafia ties'

Map of Italy with Reggio Calabria

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The entire council of the city of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy has been sacked to stop it from being taken over by the mafia, officials say.

The move came after some councillors were suspected of having ties to the powerful 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

Officials said it was the first time that the entire government of a provincial capital had been dismissed over suspected mafia links.

Three commissioners will run the city for 18 months until the next elections.

Mayor Demetrio Arena and all 30 city councillors were sacked to prevent any "mafia contagion" in the local government, Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said.

Smaller city administrations have been dissolved in the past for similar reasons.

Richest mafia

For many months there had been concerns about the influence the 'Ndrangheta might be exerting over the city council, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

An investigation was launched after one councillor was arrested last year on a charge of being associated with the gangsters, he said.

Experts say the 'Ndrangheta has overtaken the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia and become one of the world's biggest criminal organisations.

Cocaine is thought to be its biggest source of revenue, along with extortion and money laundering.

Italy's parliamentary anti-mafia commission has described the group as the country's most dangerous - and richest - mafia.

The network has used the migration of poor Calabrians to northern Italy or abroad to export its influence.

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