Police arrest Mandara's big cheese in mafia probe

Giuseppe Mandara, Italy's largest buffalo mozzarella maker has been arrested. (AFP / Italian Police / Direzione Investiga Anti-Mafia)

Giuseppe Mandara, Italy's largest buffalo mozzarella maker has been arrested. (AFP / Italian Police / Direzione Investiga Anti-Mafia)

Assets worth €100-million ($123-million) were also seized on Tuesday.

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 in 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 some of his staff have been arrested," the police said in a statement.

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 as a more prestigious kind.

Noxious substances
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, said.

Contacted by Agence France-Presse, the Gruppo Alival consortium which Mandara Group belongs to declined to comment on the investigation.

Gruppo Alival'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. – Sapa

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