"This was an operation against the Nigerian mafia with the highest number of people [Nigerian mafia members] arrested in Italy," the police said in a statement.
The alleged mafia members were from two separate criminal organizations that have cult-like characteristics. These organizations have long been active in Bari, trying to control the province and manage criminal activities there.
The police also arrested 27 alleged members of another Nigerian criminal organization that was involved in drug trafficking in the northern province of Trento.
The operations were carried out in several Italian provinces with assistance from Interpol's German, French, Dutch and Maltese bureaus. The mafia members were charged with several serious crimes, including illegal migration, slavery, sexual assault, extortion and organized prostitution.
The Nigerian mafia is active in all of Italy's provinces and the criminals' primary activities include illicit drug trafficking, illegal migration, organized prostitution and forced slavery.