IN a well-coordinated swoop conducted across Europe, the Spanish police arrested 69 suspected members of the Georgian mafia, police reported yesterday.

Codenamed “Operation Java,“ the anti-mafiosi drive resulted in 24 people detained in the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Valencia alone.
Operation Java followed a year-long probe initiated by the Spanish police with the other arrests taking place in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. It is believed that the arrested were part of the Georgian underworld involved in a whole range of illegal activities like money-laundering, extortion, drug trafficking and possessing weapons, with the Spanish national radio stating that the majority of them were Russian nationals.

A similar raid carried out by the Spanish police in 2008 led to the arrest of 20 members of the Russian mafia who were living here in Majorca. Yesterday's operation, co-ordinated by the National High Court, was a joint effort involving Spain's central drugs and organised crime unit as well as other regional security forces.

Those arrested in Spain were mostly said to be “foot soldiers”. “We are not going to find great mansions nor enormous quantities of money, as in other operations, because this is an organisation which operated at a more basic level, but they did it in various European countries,“ a Spanish police source said. “These people were ready to kill if it was necessary.”