Rome, July 4 (IANS/AKI) Police in Italy on Monday arrested 38 people on charges of trafficking in people and drugs, in an operation which targeted an alleged gang whose financial nerve centre was based in Rome.
"Investigators identified the organisational structure of a dangerous criminal network as well major money flows from the trafficking of migrants," police said in a statement.
"The gang used various methods to bring migrants into Italy, not only by sea but also through bogus family reunification," said police.
The principal suspects also ran a flourishing operation that trafficked the illegal amphetamine-like stimulant Khat from Ethiopia, classified as a hard drug under Italian law, police added.
Central to the alleged gang's activities were 'hawala' informal banking channels popular in the Islamic world, which leave no electronic trace of transactions, police said.
Police impounded several shops including a perfume store near Rome's central Termini rail station where the alleged gang members met and also seized unspecified company shares in Monday's operation.
A total of 23 of the suspects issued with arrest warrants are in custody while 15 are at large, according to police.
Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano hailed Monday's arrests as "a body blow to a transnational criminal network whose business was migrant trafficking with Rome as its financial centre".
Investigators raided a money transfer shop near Rome in June and seized 526,000 euros and $25,000 in cash as well as a logbook containing foreigners' names and payments made, according to police.