A priest was among dozens arrested in connection with a scam in which millions of euros destined for migrant centres in Italy were allegedly siphoned off.

Hundreds of police worked undercover for months before the dawn raid aimed at cracking a scam involving the migrant and asylum seeker reception centre in Isola di Capo Rizzuto.

It is claimed that €36m (£27m) euros out of €103m (£79m) euros the centre in Calabria got in EU and government funds between 2006 and 2015 was stolen by the Arena family, which is one of the feared Ndrangheta crime syndicate clans.

The head of the Catholic Misericordia association that operates the centre, Leonardo Sacco, is accused of helping the clan get contracts for catering at the centre as well as at a centre on the island of Lampedusa.

The Catanzaro prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy's toughest anti-mafia magistrates said the scam involved companies being set up for food services but the money going instead to the purchase of theatres, cinemas, apartments, land, cars and luxury boats.

"There was never enough food and we even filmed the quality of food, it was the kind of food we usually give to the pigs," he said.

Even the town's parish priest, Father Edoardo Scordio, is accused of taking €132,000 (£110,000) in 2017 alone for services, the Telegraph reported.

"The welcome centre was the cash machine for the 'Ndrangheta clan," said Carabinieri General Giuseppe Governale, according to the paper.

Authorities believe the sting, dubbed Operation Jonny, may have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg of the scam. Italy hosts around 175,000 migrants in its reception centres.