(AFP) – Jul 17, 2012
ROME — Italian police on Tuesday arrested the head of the biggest buffalo mozzarella maker in the country and seized assets worth 100 million euros ($123 million) on suspicion of links to organised crime.
The police said Giuseppe Mandara -- who once called himself the "Armani of Mozzarella" in an interview -- and his Mandara Group were controlled by the notorious Casalesi clan of the Camorra mafia based around the city of Naples.
The Mandara Group is also a major global exporter of buffalo mozzarella and is sold by large chains in Europe, Japan and the United States.
Mandara and three associates have been arrested, the police said.
Investigators said Mandara had received a bailout from the mafia when he was in financial trouble in the 1980s and this had helped him in his
The investigation includes charges of misleading consumers after the company was found to have mixed in cow milk with more expensive buffalo milk and labelled batches of ordinary provolone cheese as a more prestigious kind.
Another charge is for trading in noxious substances after it was found that up to two tonnes of buffalo mozzarella, which has already been taken off the market, may have been contaminated with ceramic residue from a broken machine.
"We have seized the whole company," Paolo Di Napoli, an officer from the environmental protection arm of the Carabinieri police, told AFP.
Contacted by AFP, Alival Group which is a junior partner in the Mandara Group company to declined to comment on the investigation.
Alival Group's website said Mandara was a third-generation family business and the country's top producer of buffalo mozzarella.
In an interview with business website denaro.it in 2010, Mandara said he produced 78,000 cheeses a day and employed 180 people.
Italian media reports said the Mandara Group produced two tonnes of buffalo mozzarella a day for the Italian and international markets.
Buffalo mozzarella sells in Italy for around 12 euros ($15) per kilo and can cost more than twice as much abroad.
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