Three Polish women detained as suspected members of Italian mafia

Three Polish women have been detained in Poland on suspicion of collaborating with the 'Ndrangheta, the "most powerful criminal organisation in Italy."

The Italian authorities had issued European Arrest Warrants for the three women, all in their forties, for their alleged participation in a criminal group and money laundering.

"Officers from the Central Investigation Bureau of Police (CBSP), together with the National Revenue Administration (KAS) and the Bureau of International Police Cooperation of the General Police Headquarters, detained three Polish women," the CBSP spokeswoman, Iwona Jurkiewicz, told PAP on Wednesday.

The arrests were part of the I-CAN (Interpol Cooperation Against 'Ndrangheta) project, she added.

The Polish operation was linked to an Italian investigation into a criminal group which produced bogus documentation and committed tax fraud to the detriment of the Italian state budget, as well as money laundering.

Justyna Pasieczynska, a spokeswoman for the National Revenue Administration (KAS), said that the criminal group the Polish women were involved in operated in Poland and Italy.

"Its members established companies and issued bogus documents that confirmed fictitious transactions. The issued pro-forma invoices meant tax was avoided, and at the same time confirmed the flow of funds into the bank accounts of individual companies," she said.

Pasieczynska added that the value of the fictitious transactions is estimated at over EUR 50 million.

"The group consisted of at least 30 people who collaborated with the 'Ndrangheta, currently the most powerful criminal organisation in Italy. The detained Polish citizens were on the boards of fictitious companies whose accounts were used to transfer money belonging to criminal groups," she said.

According to the findings of the investigators, cash from banks in Poland was paid out only by so-called trusted people.

"One of the detained women admitted that she had withdrawn over EUR 15 million from the bank. She transferred the cash to couriers who settled accounts with the organisers of the procedure in Italy. Two of them were detained on the way back to Italy. They had nearly EUR 500,000 in the car," Pasieczynska said.

The suspects' property, worth almost EUR 12 million, was seized and included four villas located in seaside and mountain resorts, cars, motorcycles, jewellery and luxury watches, she added.

Extradition proceedings to Italy have been initiated against the detained women.