ROME, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Italian police placed four management offices of discount supermarket chain Lidl under state control and arrested 15 people in a mafia probe, Milan police headquarters said in a statement Monday.
Charges in the probe reportedly include mafia conspiracy, issuing fake invoices, tax fraud, and money laundering on behalf of the Laudani clan of the Sicilian mafia.
"Milan flying squad and Varese finance police arrest 15 and search 60 premises of affiliates of Catania-based Laudani mafia family," Italian state police tweeted.
Lidl Italia has 10 regional headquarters in the country. The four regional offices placed under receivership manage a total of 222 stores across northern Italy, in Sicily, and on Malta, according to the company website.
Anti-mafia investigators say managers at the four regional offices "not only receive money in exchange for assigning jobs in favor of the suspects (...) but have direct or indirect ties to individuals belonging to the Laudani mafia family, who are capable of influencing choices made by management," according to prosecution documents cited by Italian news agency Ansa.
"(For them) it was like fishing in a small pond," Milan Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini told reporters at a televised news conference. "They knew exactly who, where and how to find those to be corrupted."
Lidl is a German grocery store chain with more than 10,000 supermarkets in 27 countries and regions around the world. It has 600 branches and 12,000 employees in Italy, where it opened its first store in 1992 near the northern city of Vicenza, according to its website.
In a statement, Lidl Italia said it learned of the operation from anti-mafia investigators on Monday, that it is cooperating fully with the authorities, and that it has "nothing to do with" the allegations.
The company is not under investigation and no seizures have been carried out, the Lidl Italia statement said.