The operation was ordered by anti-mafia Investigative Department (DIA) of Lecce and carried out by 100 police officers mainly in the two provinces of Brindisi and Bari.
All people arrested were variously charged with mafia association, extortion, usury, and money laundering. Assets worth about one million euro (1.2 million U.S. dollars) were also seized in the raids, anti-mafia prosecutors said.
Those arrested were allegedly linked to the mafia organisation known as Sacra Corona Unita (SCU), which is said to be operating mainly in the region of Puglia.
A former councillor in the town of Mesagne, two entrepreneurs, and a mafia boss were among the people arrested.
The operation arose from claims brought by a former centre-right regional politician, who ended up to be a victim of loan sharks in order to fund at least two of his electoral campaigns between 2005 and 2010, anti-mafia prosecutors explained.
Overall, the man ran into a debt of some 430 thousand euros (553 thousand U.S. dollars) with banks and other financial institutions, and turned to private moneylenders to repay them.
The alleged usurers, in connection with the SCU syndicate, would have charged the ex-politician rates of 600 percent to 1,000 percent over the years, authorities added.