Italian police said Wednesday they had seized 1.3 tonnes of cocaine in the past week from the southern port of Gioia Tauro, a major narcotics entry-point controlled by the 'Ndrangheta mafia.

In three operations using sophisticated scanners, police discovered the uncut drugs worth €260 million hidden within containers loaded with coffee and frozen meat from Brazil, and exotic fruit from Ecuador. 

"The seized drugs, of the purest quality, could have been cut up to four times by drug traffickers before being put on the market, earning €260 million for the 'Ndrangheta," the provincial police force said in a statement.

The 'Ndrangheta, which is based in the southern region of Calabria but whose tentacles reach internationally, is now considered Italy's most powerful organised crime group by anti-mafia prosecutors.

The group, which has managed to infiltrate public life throughout Calabria, is involved not only in international drug trafficking but extortion, money laundering, and contract-rigging.   

Police said the 'Ndrangheta's methods of concealing drugs at the port were "often different and always evolving," requiring investigators to change their detection tactics.

The Gioia Tauro port has been under special surveillance by police for years. 

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