by Matteo Civillini

Italian police arrested nearly two dozen alleged members of the country’s Mafia on Tuesday, accusing them of conspiring to rig a local election in the southern city of Bari, the country’s gendarmerie said.

The sweep led to the arrest of 21 people linked to the Di Cosola family of the Sacra Corona Unita, Italy’s fourth largest Mafia group, the Carabinieri said in a statement. The group faces charges of voter fraud and mafia-type association.

Investigators accuse members of the criminal group of using vote-buying to influence the outcome of local elections in the region of Apulia. Among those arrested was Armando Giove, 47, an aide to centrist candidate Natale Mariella and the alleged broker of the deal.

According to police, Giove offered the Di Cosola associates €50 for each vote they secured for his candidate, in addition to a €30,000 advance. Local media reported that the alleged Mafia figures offered €20 to locals to vote for their preferred candidate, and threatened violence towards those who refused.

Mariella failed to gain a seat in the regional council, but won a disproportionately high share of the vote in areas affected by the clan’s presence. The probe was sparked by the revelations from Michele Di Cosola, the son of crime group leader Antonio, who had turned police informant in May 2016.

More than 300 police officers were involved in Tuesday’s operation.

This article was published on OCCRP website on December 13, 2016.