Police said Tuesday they had broken up a major organized crime operation between clans in North America and the United States that conspired to smuggle large amounts of drugs and weapons into Italy from South America.

A statement said that about 18 people had been arrested in Italy and eight by the FBI in New York in the operation dubbed "New Bridge." Those arrested were accused of international drugs and weapons trafficking and money laundering.

Officials said undercover agents in both countries prevented the delivery to Italy of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine hidden in shipments of coconuts and pineapples during the two-year investigation. They also confiscated heroin and marijuana.

CBS correspondent Allen Pizzey, who covered the raid in Italy Monday night, reported that police were "very polite," with weapons drawn just as a precaution. The operation was "efficient, fast and low-key," he told CBS This Morning.

The clans of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta — a version of the Mafia on the southern mainland — and members of the Gambino Mafia family in New York, were in the "advanced stages" of plans to smuggle drugs and weapons from South America to the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria.

Italy Anti-Mafia Bust

A joint Italian-U.S. anti-Mafia blitz is underway with numerous arrests reported on both sides of the Atlantic. Italian anti-Mafia police said the "New Bridge" operation targeted a new cocaine trafficking route from South America to the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro, above. (Adriana Sapone/Associated Press)

U.S. and Italian authorities were seeking 26 suspects, including a member of the Gambino crime family in New York, who authorities said negotiated the new smuggling route.

FBI agents had travelled to Italy to carry out arrests together with Italian police. Magistrates and police were due to hold a news conference later on Tuesday.

With files from Reuters, CBC News