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The 'Ndrangheta (/(ən)dræŋˈɡɛtə/,[2] Italian: [nˈdraŋɡeta], Calabrian: [(ɳ)ˈɖɽaɲɟɪta])[a] is a Mafia-type organized crime group based in Calabria, Italy. Despite not being as famous abroad as the Sicilian Mafia, and having been considered more rural than the Neapolitan Camorra and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, the 'Ndrangheta became the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While commonly tied together with the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta operates independently from them, though there is contact between the two due to the geographical proximity and shared culture and language between Calabria and Sicily.

A US diplomat estimated that the organization's narcotics trafficking, extortion and money laundering activities accounted for at least 3% of Italy's GDP in 2010.[3] Since the 1950s, the organization has spread towards Northern Italy and worldwide. According to a 2013 "Threat Assessment on Italian Organised Crime" of Europol and the Guardia di Finanza, the 'Ndrangheta is among the richest (in 2008 their income was around 55 billion dollars) and most powerful organised crime groups at a global level.[4]

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  • ✪ The origins of the 'ndrangheta of Calabria: Italy's most powerful mafia (1 March 2011)
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  • ✪ Kalabrijska Mafija - "Ndrangheta"
  • ✪ Documentario 2017: Ndrangheta famiglie


>> The German steel town of Jewsburg, 15th of August, 2007, the early hours of the morning; 54 shots are fired by two killers at six victims. This is an execution, an underworld execution of great professionalism. The two killers even take the time to walk up to each of the six victims in turn and fire it through the grass into their heads. It was Europe's, well the worst ever mafia bloodbath outside of the United States and Italy. And it marks the date when Europe finally woke up to the existence and the importance of what the New York Times called, the unpronounceable mafia of Calabria Dragnet. The Ndrangheta comes from Calabria, and if you like the toe of the Italian boot, and its established preeminence, criminal preeminence in Italy, really since the 80s, 1990s when it started dealing direct with South American cocaine cartels, the producer cartels. It is the mafia with the most elaborate rituals on the body, in the pocket of one of the victims, a boy of eighteen who had just been celebrating his birthday was found this image-- partially burned image of the arch angel Michael, which shown investigators that he had not just been celebrating his birthday because the arch angel Michael is the image that is traditionally used in Ndrangheta initiation rituals. It's the mafia of all of Italy's mafias that has proved most difficult to penetrate for the authorities. And it is also the best at spreading it's metastases around Italy and around the world. There are many other countries apart from Germany that now have Ndrangheta colonies in them. We know much less both historically and in a contemporary sense about the Ndrangheta than we do about Italy's other major two mafias, the Sicilian mafia or Cosa Nostra and the Camorra of Naples. Recent operation, the summer of last year in fact, gives us our most up to date profile of the organizations structure. I don't want to dwell on this one for too long but it's just to give you an idea of the kind of organization we're looking for when as I set out to do, we try and go back into the historical record to find its origins. The Ndrangheta has a structure beginning at the bottom here with the Ndrina. Ndrina, is the basic cell of the organization and it's based around family ties. It has a patriarch that center a boss, often with a number of male children and relatives by blood and marriage. That's the basic cell of the organization and those family ties are what make it difficult to penetrate for the authorities. A number of ndrina, two or three ndrina are grouped into what's called a locale, a local, which is-- it self governs territory and is itself sub-divided into two compartments for reasons of security. The junior members with access to less money and less power are in the so called minor society or societa minori. The most senior members including the officers of the loacle, the capo, the contabile who's the bookkeeper essentially and the capo crimina who's like a sort of day to day manager of criminal activity go into the societa majore, the major society. Continuing upwards excuse me, above the level of the local, the locale, there are three mandemente [Assumed spelling] or precincts covering large sort of macro areas of southern Calabria. And other branches of the Ndrangheta in Italy and around the world also operate if you like at this level within the organization. And at the top as we know from what we know from this very recent investigation there is a body called the grand crimine, the great crime. Also known as la provincia, the province presided over by a figure known as the capo crimine, the head of crime, the boss of crime. I won't say much about this for now but I do want to emphasize that this is not with-- investigators are still working out what kind of power, what degree of power these titles carry with them. The man who was arrested in the summer and accused of being the head of the provincia, the head of the grand crimine, a man called Domenico Oppedisano is not a super boss. This is not an organization where power as it were cascades down from the top. Oppedisano, the investigations-- the investigators claim was more of an arbitrator, an expert on procedure, such as initiation rituals and ranks and so on, a mediator. So, not a governing boss if you like. The Ndrangheta is also more complicated than the Sicilian mafia in the-- the positions the offices held within the organizations structure are not the only measure of status within the organization. Those offices are elected and temporary whereas these, the ranks that the individual Ndrangheta's hold are permanent. They call them doti gifts or flowers, fiore and they're an ascending scale of seniority. You start at the bottom as a giovani d'onore a sort of on the threshold of membership an honored youth if you like. If you're in the minor society you hold one of three ranks, Picciotto, which means lad, Camorrista, Comorrista di sgarro, which means something like Camorrista who's up for a fight; going further up the ranks, the major society ranks and so on and right up until the most senior rank, which is Padrino, which means godfather. Why should we study the history of this organization? Organized crime is normally the domain of sociology and criminology. Well, one reason is that this organization has been around for a long time. Not quite as long as the Camorra and the Sicilian mafia, but a long time, over a century nonetheless. And that's no coincidence. That's because these are organizations which plan for the long term. They think over the long term. So history is an important discipline for understanding them. And because of-- and the third reason we should understand their history is because they think it's important. They have an official founding myth. It's the story of three Spanish nights, Osso, Mastrosso and Carcagnosso, which translates to bone, master bone and heel bone. And there story that is of three knights in the middle ages some time in the past fled from Spain because their sister had been raped and murdered and they'd avenged the crime in blood. They took refuge on the Sicilian island of Favignana and there they invented the rules of the honored society. At that point Osso went to Sicily, found that the Sicilian mafia, the honored society of Sicily, Mastrosso went to Naples and formed the Camorra, the honored society of Naples and also went to Calabria to form the Ndrangheta, the honored society of Calabria. Before I start telling the story of their origins, just a word on the name; the word Dragnet takes hold in public discourse as a name for the Calabria mafia only in the mid 1950s. The word comes from a Greek dialect know as Germanic, which is spoken in some parts of southern Calabria. It all goes back to the time when this part of the world was part of the Byzantine Empire. The time we're talking about, the time of their origins, the 1880s and so on, the words used both by investigators and by the Ndrangheta themselves, and things like Mafiosi, Camorristi and so on, terms borrowed, not coincidentally from Sicily and Naples, but the name in this period that sticks most often is La picciotteria, which means something like lavishness or lads with attitude. One of things that I'm going to demonstrate I hope over the next few minutes is that they're the same thing. The La picciotteria and Ndrangheta are the same thing. What's the current state of research on the origins of-- very briefly we have a few sporadic reports of gang activity in the 1860s and 1870s and then in the mid 1880s the authorities such as the prefect of Reggio Calabria I've cited, here start to take notice, they start to worry, they start to notice much more consistent and numerically significant presence of gangsters in Calabrian territory. And from that moment on the evidence is overwhelming. Trial papers are particularly significant but there are also sources. So that's the bad chronology we have at the moment. And we don't have much in the way of an explanation of how and why the Ndregneta took hold. The consensus basically is that Calabrian society is to blame. Calabrian society characterized by violence, by families, in other words the priority given to family ties over the more impersonal relationships fostered by the modern state, patronage, politics. That mixture of the consensus goes somehow spontaneously generates the Ndrangheta. It's what they called in the language of the time the immorality of the Calabrian ruling class. That's a consensus I'm going to challenge and qualify over the next few minutes. This just briefly is a map of the area we're talking about; southern Calabria, the very tip of the toe of the boot, if you like. And I'm going to look particularly at two areas because there isn't that much evidence around about the origins of the Ndrangheta. Calabria has a particularly tragic history of earthquakes including the most lethal seismic event and the history of the western world the 1908 earthquake, which devastated, killed 80 thousand people, devastated the area. That combined with a history of maladministration in Calbria means the archives aren't in a particularly good state. But I've identified two areas where we found a sufficient concentration of evidence to really turn the chronology of the Ndrangheta emergence into something more like a narrative. And those two places are Palmi up there and Africo down here, up in the mountains. Let's begin in Palmi; a small town, 11 to 12 thousand inhabitants but most importantly it's the administrative capital for a large area. For the hole of this area, the plain of Gioia Tauro, the plain and Calabria is mostly mountainous, the Gioia Tauro is an area of relatively wealthy agriculture and Palmi is the capital of it. And for that reason it has all the-- it has outposts of the Italian state, like a sub prefecture, a core complex and of course importantly a prison as we'll see. The plain of Gioia Tauro as I said is an area of small holdings, not great estates as much of the rest of Calabria is, because a lot of church property is confiscated and privatized there after Italy is unified in 1860. It's an area in other words of cash crops, citrus fruit, the oranges of Ndrangheta if you like, olive oil, wine, there's even a wine boom in the 1870s; a lot of investment in vines in that period. What happens? The newspapers in the spring of 1888 start to report razor slashings; people having their faces slashed by razors, formal knife point duals in the center of the city. These are the telltale signs as we'll see of Camorra mafia activity. The criminals concentrated in the taverns and brothels where they extort money from gamblers and prostitutes and in classic mafia fashion the victims refuse to testify. Within weeks according to the press order is close to breaking down. It's remarkably rapid what happens. The citizens are afraid to leave their homes. Landowners are being intimidated, forced to take on members of the organization as gods on their land. This is the classic begins of the extortion racket regime, which is the basis of criminal territory or authority in southern Italy; extortion rackets on a tax base of organized crime. In June 1988 after one particularly nasty attack on a government official, the authorities finally act and 24 men are arraigned in 1889. Who were these men? Who were these first [Inaudible] They're entirely representative of many other trials that would come in the years to come. They're mostly young, in their late teens or early 20s. The bossman, Francesco Lisciotto at 60 was easily the oldest. And they're all laborers, almost all laborers or artisans apart from one or two small holders. They have very humble job titles, peasant, carter, waiter, shepherd, and so on. But most importantly all-- of all 21 of 24 of veterans of the prison system. So it's not that sociological brethren. It's their job that's important. It's the fact that they've been in prison. And the judges reached-- made historians job very easily and an 1890 trial, I'm going to quote from a series of trials I've been able to look at in Palmi. And the judges make the historian's job very easy; they tell us exactly where this association came from. The association originated in 1887 in the district prisons in Palmi under the name of "Sect of camorristi. From there as and when it's bosses and promoters were released, spread to other towns and villages where it found fertile soil among the callow youth, old jailbirds, and especially goatherds." A later trial, the trials mount up without being able to uproot the organization. They have tattoos demonstrating their rank. They have a particular distinctive dress code including tight trousers that flare over their shoes. They tie silk scarves in a special way. They comb their hair into what repeated testimonies refer to as a butterfly-shaped quiff. They have an initiation ritual and the lowest rank is that of honoured youth. [Speaking in foreign language] And the wording of their initiation [Speaking in a foreign language] which begins with the boss saying, "Are you comfortable?" and the initiate replying, "Very comfortable" and so it's a long ceremony. There's a very, very close resemblance to the Ndregenta's initiation ritual today. Another trial still in Parliament, 1897 shows us the organization and its divided into locally based cells or sections. Each cell is subdivided between a minor society and a major society. The minor society groups people with a lower rank of picciotto and the major society has the higher ranked camorristi. They each-- the major minor society have their own boss, their own bookkeeper and so on. We are dealing without doubt with the Ndregenta. There is even the first ever evidence under the person who unearthed this of the mafia-- the Calabrian mafia's initiation ritual. This is a testimony from 1897 from a former member of the gang called [Speaking in a foreign language] who says, tells the court that society was born from three knights: one from Spain, one from Naples; all three were camorristi. Metophorically speaking these three camorristi were a tree, the boss, the Spanish knight was the trunk of tree, the Palermo who was the oldest was the masterbone, Mastrosso and the third knight, the one from Naples was the bone, Osso. The other members were the branches and the leaves. The honoured youths who aspire to become picciotti or the flowers. All of this including the metaphor of the tree, which is another very powerful organizational matter the Ndrangheta uses today about itself, the tree of knowledge bears a very, very close family resemblance to the Ndrangheta's mythology today, okay. So we've found Ndrangheta at its beginnings. Switching to Africo a very different reality socially; this is not a rich economy of cash crops. It's a mounting woodland economy forestry, charcoal, livestock. This is a place of poverty and isolation. It's the area where the last redoubt if you like of this grecanico, this greek dialect. I want to go into details about events in Africo. They center around-- the documentation I've looked at is a huge trial, 150 or so accused. It centers around the murder of a goatherd and picciotto [Inaudible] who is lured out into the countryside during a bagpipe bouncing party, has his throat cut and has salt poured on the wound, as well as multiple stab wounds. It's a very public murder. It's an intimadatory murder. His body is left where it is by way of intimidating a few other local people. Now despite the isolation of Africo, the [Inaudible] in Africo has the same structure, the same dresscode, the same morays as in Palmi. One interesting difference is they are much more expert in cattle wrestling. They steal the cattle locally and put it on the market where the brands can't be identified, through their friends in places like Palmi. We're dealing with a network already that is much more than local; they're part of the same organization. And once again in Africo we find that the ex cons are the people in control okay. The Ndrangheta, it seems the members of this organization emerged from prison straight into senior roles in the organization on the outside world. Men like Domenico Callea, age 34 serves 10 years for the violent-- for a violent rape. Upon his release he immediately becomes the bookkeeper for the Africo section and its dueling in structure, ritual duels are part of the promotion ritual for the Ndrangheta in this period. There's also a charismatic volatile president as the members call him, they call Filippo Velona. He too is released after a long prison sentence and assumes a very senior role of a wide area of Calabrian territory. The story so far then, yes 1860s and 1870s sporadic instances, because you've got groups of criminals from within the prison system who are getting together to commit crimes, but have not yet established any kind of what we would call territorial control. The mid 1880s there begins a crime wave that rapidly leads to the establishment of that territorial control. There are a number of trials according to one magistrate. The time, 1854 picciotto are convicted between 1885 and 1902. Southern Calibria never recovers from this crime wave. It's from this moment on that the Ndrangheta establishes territorial control. Now that picture obviously banks a number of questions. The first one is of course, about prison. What is going on in prison if it can generate this organization? Well we know from a number of sources that the prison system of southern Italy was in the hands of gangs of Camorra, that bore a very, very close resemblance to the [Inaudible] and it was in the hands of the minor society and major society, the code of honor, practice of scarring people's faces with razors as a punishment, duels and so on and so forth. Right from the early 19th century, it's a very, very similar organization. One of the pieces of evidence is the autobiography of this man. He was a Calabrian prison crime boss before the Ndrangheta emerged into the outside world. There are plenty of other cases of prison criminal organizations establishing their authority on the outside world. The Russian mafia is a case in point. For a long time the Vory were a prison gang and with the fall of the Soviet Union they managed to establish their authority on the outside. Similarly the South African number gangs, the 26s, 27s and 28s that emerged in the 90s with the establishment of democracy for reasons I don't have time to go into. But the same transformation happens also in Naples, a generation earlier and this is almost instructive example. Well let's look very briefly at the honoured society of Naples, which has a history we know much better. The honoured society of Naples takes shape when political prisoners during the resergment or during the union for Italian unification. Many of whom were free masons are in prisoned and the criminals learn the business of organizing yourself like a free masonry. That's what mafias are; they are free masonry's of crime. And from these patriotic prisons-- and the patriotic prisoners also give them their invitation card into history because they recruit them as revolutionary muscle, just as the [Inaudible] authorities that the patriots wanted to overthrow recruit them as police spies. And that as I said is how [Inaudible] got into history. From that point on they can start to establish their authority in the outside world. So, in this case, it's that combination of politics and violence that is the passage for criminal power from the prisons into the outside world. So why does the Ndrangheta emerge in the 1880s? What's he reason? The courts are very good at telling us what happened. They don't often ask themselves why? Well the economy is undoubtedly part of it. There was an agricultural crisis, protectionism. These cash cops were reported in some areas. You got a lot of debt ridden small holders and hungry labor. So there were plenty of recruits, but I don't think the economy is the real secret. I think politics is to blame. Once again it's that combination of politics and violence that's the secret. Now the authorities aren't very keen to talk about this thing for reasons that will become obvious. But we do get fragmentary reports that talk about the police closing up or cozying up to Bianchi at election time. We learned that Domenico Callea, I also mentioned in Africo was the son of a former mayor. And we learned the defendants in the Africo trial, for all that poverty, for all the isolation of that, their village had expensive lawyers and included people who, because of their prosperous financial state, I'm quoting from a judge, could only have been driven to crime because they are innately wicked. So, what is going on? Well, the 1880s are the years of Italy's entry into the era of mass politics. Elective reforms in 1882 and 1888 mean a quarter of adult males are now entitled to vote. Local government gets more power and more resources. Resources that family groups and criminal groups want to get their hands on. There is an increase in the demand for violence in the political domain with the arrival of mass politics, both from the center, from the ministry of the interior who wants to use the police to make sure that the right candidates win elections and locally from local candidates who want to impose themselves on others. That's is the reason I think and the reason of course the authorities want to talk about this very much is that that complacent in it. That I think unfortunately democratization seems to be a sort of perverse democratization is one of the reasons, the main reason the Ndrangheta emerged when it did. Now the Ndrangheta through its history goes through many, many more important changes. One of the superficial symptoms of those changes is the change in the dress code. Some time in the early 20th century the black trousers and the strange haircuts disappeared. Another thing that's very important is the Ndrangheta learns to make crime into a family business. I can't go into this now, but the Ndrangheta begins as a society of ex cons. And through the 20th century learns the business of transmitting criminal patrimonies down through the generations, recruiting sons, using women properly in its organization. It becomes more family centered. That's a long story of development that I don't have time to tell here, which I do tell. Here's the plug, in my book which is due out in June, which is a parallel history of the Sicilian mafia, The Neapolitan Camorra and of course the Ndrangheta of Calabria. Thank you. [ Sound effects ] >> Wonderful. Any questions. I have a question here. Would you like to take my mic? >> Thank you the approach different the [Inaudible] the origins of Sicilian mafia? >> Diego Gambetta's [Assumed spelling] isn't about the origins of the Sicilian mafia. It's a very important sociology of the Sicilian mafia, an account of its economics if you like of the mafia as a kind of criminal brand, a brand of protection. So, Gambetta's book is extremely important, but it's not a history. >> Okay one here. >> Excuse me. Why do you think this phenomenon was just in the South of Italy and not-- it didn't happen in the North? >> It's-- the question was, I don't know if people heard it is why does this happen in the South and not in the North? That's a long story. It's in the South really that we get an attempt in the early 19th century, which is really when this takes hold. By the [Inaudible] to modernize itself and yet deep down it remains an [Inaudible] regime society where power is parceled out to local groups who were able to assert themselves local, pre-mafias if you like of whether they're members of the ruling class of the poor and that's really the problem. The problem goes back to the [Inaudible] state, the failings of the [Inaudible] state. And then Italy, northern Italy as well as after unification learns to manage the south in this way and perpetuates the problem. >> Good. I have a couple of questions in the back? Yes. >> How many members does the [Inaudible] have nowadays and furthermore, is there a wider circle of supporters. >> The numbers are bound to be approximate, but its though to be the most numerous. I think it's something like 7 thousand, is the number that's most frequently sited. But of course, the people have actually been through a ritual and become members are only a tiny part of the problem. You're talking about a huge area of support in society. And that's the most worrying thing about [Inaudible] is that it seems to draw on the most consent in part of collaborating society. >> Okay, I think we have another question in the back there. Did we have a gentleman in the back or the lady there, yes? >> Thank you. Because of the geographical closeness of this area to Sicily and also Naples what relationships or relationship if any do they have with the other mafia bodies and particularly in terms of this sort of legend that they have about the three knights? >> Well, the main relationship between them historically and on a day-to-day basis is within the prison system and it still is. You know, that's the sort of university of crime, the way they communicate with one another. They learn from each other and that pattern of communications has gone on right from the beginning. They don't enter very often into conflict except within the prisons. Because mafia power is all about territory and the Ndrangheta is no one missions to take over territory in Sicily. The interesting area for this is eastern Sicily around Messina, which is a city I know well where they basically have a kind of diplomatic relationship. They leave territorial control to local offices and then when there's anything important going on the guys in suits from Palermo and [Inaudible] meet, to thrash out a deal and it's the very peaceable nature of the business relationship between the mafia and Ndrangheta in eastern Sicily around Messina and the province of Messina gives-- is frightening instance-- that play on their ability to collaborate. >> Okay, just one more question over here. >> Fascinating talk. What happened when Italy was under the control of the fascists in Ndrangheta? >> It's a complicated story the story of fascism. It's been trumpeted at least by the fascists themselves as a great wave of repression that did away with the Sicilian mafia and the Camorra in the Neapolitan [Inaudible] The truth we now know, and there are some remarkable documentations that's just emerged is-- it simply didn't. You know the most convincing we have evidence already by 1932 in Sicily when the mafia basically tender our messages saying okay the trials are now finished from the fascist repression, we can start up again. In Calabria there were also waves of repression, but Calabria never, ever attracts the kind of publicity and interest that Sicily does. Calabria is systematically very simply not as powerful or as important economically as Palermo and Naples. You can govern Italy by ignoring Palerma and Naples. So, the story under fascism as under the sense of the Calabria mafia is a mafia that has basically been ignored, during the land it's been ignored. >> Good I'd like to say thanks very much to John for an absolutely wonderful talk. [ Sound effects ] >> And are you feeling comfortable? Are you feeling comfortable? Then buy the book. Thank you very much.



Origin and etymology

In 1861 the prefect of Reggio Calabria already noticed the presence of so-called camorristi, a term used at the time since there was no formal name for the phenomenon in Calabria (the Camorra was the older and better known criminal organization in Naples).[5][6] Since the 1880s, there is ample evidence of 'Ndrangheta-type groups in police reports and sentences by local courts. At the time they were often being referred to as the picciotteria, onorata società (honoured society) or camorra and mafia.[7]

These secret societies in the areas of Calabria rich in olives and vines were distinct from the often anarchic forms of banditry and were organized hierarchically with a code of conduct that included omertà – the code of silence – according to a sentence from the court in Reggio Calabria in 1890. An 1897 sentence from the court in Palmi mentioned a written code of rules found in the village of Seminara based on honour, secrecy, violence, solidarity (often based on blood relationships) and mutual assistance.[8]

In the folk culture surrounding 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, references to the Spanish Garduña often appear. Aside from these references, however, there is nothing to substantiate a link between the two organizations. The Calabrian word 'Ndrangheta derives from Greek[9] ἀνδραγαθία andragathía for "heroism" and manly "virtue"[10] or ἀνδράγαθος andrágathos, compound words of ἀνήρ, anḗr (gen. ἀνδρóς, andrós), i.e. man[11] and ἀγαθός, agathós, i.e. good, brave,[12] meaning a courageous man.[13][14] In many areas of Calabria the verb 'ndranghitiari, from the Greek verb andragathízesthai,[15] means "to engage in a defiant and valiant attitude".[16]

Though in recorded use earlier,[17] the word 'Ndrangheta was brought to a wider audience by the Calabrian writer Corrado Alvaro in the Corriere della Sera in September 1955.[18][19]

Modern history

Until 1975, the 'Ndrangheta restricted their Italian operations to Calabria, mainly involved in extortion and blackmailing. Their involvement in cigarette contraband expanded their scope and contacts with the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra. With the arrival of large public works in Calabria, skimming of public contracts became an important source of income. Disagreements over how to distribute the spoils led to the First 'Ndrangheta war killing 233 people.[20] The prevailing factions began to kidnap rich people located in northern Italy for ransom. A high-profile target was John Paul Getty III, kidnapped for ransom in 1973.[21]

The Second 'Ndrangheta war raged from 1985 to 1991. The bloody six-year war between the Condello-Imerti-Serraino-Rosmini clans and the De Stefano-Tegano-Libri-Latella clans led to more than 600 deaths.[22][23] The Sicilian Mafia contributed to the end of the conflict and probably suggested the subsequent set up of a superordinate body, called La Provincia, to avoid further infighting. In the 1990s, the organization started to invest in the illegal international drug trade, mainly importing cocaine from Colombia.[24]

Deputy President of the regional parliament of Calabria Francesco Fortugno was killed by the 'Ndrangheta on 16 October 2005 in Locri. Demonstrations against the organization then ensued, with young protesters carrying banderoles reading "Ammazzateci tutti!",[25] Italian for "Kill us all". The national government started a large-scale enforcement operation in Calabria and arrested numerous 'ndranghetisti including the murderers of Fortugno.[26]

The 'Ndrangheta has expanded its activities to Northern Italy, mainly to sell drugs and to invest in legal businesses which could be used for money laundering. In May 2007 twenty members of 'Ndrangheta were arrested in Milan.[26] On 30 August 2007, hundreds of police raided the town of San Luca, the focal point of the bitter San Luca feud between rival clans among the 'Ndrangheta. Over 30 men and women, linked to the killing of six Italian men in Germany, were arrested.[27]

On 9 October 2012, following a months-long investigation by the central government, the City Council of Reggio Calabria headed by Mayor Demetrio Arena was dissolved for alleged ties to the group. Arena and all the 30 city councilors were sacked to prevent any "mafia contagion" in the local government.[28][29] This was the first time a government of a capital of a provincial government was dismissed. Three central government-appointed administrators will govern the city for 18 months until new elections.[30] The move came after unnamed councilors were suspected of having ties to the 'Ndrangheta under the 10-year centre-right rule of Mayor Giuseppe Scopelliti.[31]

'Ndrangheta infiltration of political offices is not limited to Calabria. On 10 October 2012, the commissioner of Milan's regional government in charge of public housing, Domenico Zambetti of People of Freedom (PDL), was arrested on accusations he paid the 'Ndrangheta in exchange for an election victory and to extort favours and contracts from the housing official, including construction tenders for the World Expo 2015 in Milan.[32] The probe of alleged vote-buying underscores the infiltration of the 'Ndrangheta in the political machine of Italy's affluent northern Lombardy region. Zambetti's arrest marked the biggest case of 'Ndrangheta infiltration so far uncovered in northern Italy and prompted calls for Lombardy governor Roberto Formigoni to resign.[33][34]

In 2014, in the FBI and Italian police joint operation New Bridge, members of both the Gambino and Bonanno families were arrested, as well as ten members of the Ursino clan.[35] Raffaele Valente was among the arrested. In Italian wiretaps, he revealed that he had set up a faction of the Ursino 'Ndrangheta in New York City. Valente was convicted for attempting to sell a sawed-off shotgun and a silencer to an undercover FBI agent for $5000 at a bakery in Brooklyn. He was sentenced to 3 years and one month in prison.[36] Gambino associate Franco Lupoi and his father-in-law, Nicola Antonio Simonetta, were described as the linchpins of the operation. In June 2014, Pope Francis denounced the 'Ndrangheta for their "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good" and vowed that the Church would help tackle organized crime, saying that Mafiosi were excommunicated. A spokesperson for the Vatican clarified that the pope's words did not constitute a formal excommunication under canon law, as a period of legal process is required beforehand.[37]

On 12 December 2017, 48 members of 'Ndrangheta were arrested for mafia association, extortion, criminal damage, fraudulent transferral of assets and illegal possession of firearms. Out of the 48 arrested, four were forced to house arrest and 44 were ordered to jail detention.[38] Two-time mayor of Taurianova, Calabria and his former cabinet member were among the indicted. It was alleged by investigators that the Calabrian clans had infiltrated construction of public works, control of real estate brokerage, food fields, greenhouse production and renewable energy.[39]

On 9 January 2018, law enforcement in Italy and Germany arrested 169 people in connection with the 'Ndrangheta mafia, specifically the Farao and Marincola clans based in Calabria. Assets worth €50 million (£44/$59m) were seized. The indictment mentions that owners of German restaurants, ice cream parlours, hotels and pizzerias were forced to buy wine, pizza dough, pastries and other products made in southern Italy. The Farao clan was being led by life-imprisoned Giuseppe Farao, before the arrests, and was passing orders onto his sons. They controlled bakeries, vineyards, olive groves, funeral homes, launderettes, plastic recycling plants and shipyards.[40] The waste disposal of the Ilva steel company based in Taranto was also infiltrated. Some of the charges were mafia association, attempted murder, money laundering, extortion and illegal weapons possession and trafficking. Italian prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, said that the arrests were the most important step taken against the 'Ndrangehta within the past 20 years.[41] 11 suspects were detained and accused of blackmailing and money laundering. They were deported back to Italy.[42] Alessandro Figliomeni, former Mayor of Siderno, Calabria, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 7 May 2018. He is alleged to be a member of the Commisso 'ndrina clan and served in the top hierarchy.[43]


Italian anti-organized crime agencies estimated in 2007 that the 'Ndrangheta has an annual revenue of about 35–40 billion (US$50–60 billion), which amounts to approximately 3.5% of the GDP of Italy.[24][26] This comes mostly from illegal drug trafficking, but also from ostensibly legal businesses such as construction, restaurants and supermarkets.[44] The 'Ndrangheta has a strong grip on the economy and governance in Calabria. According to a US Embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks, Calabria would be a failed state if it were not part of Italy. The 'Ndrangheta controls huge segments of its territory and economy, and accounts for at least three percent of Italy's GDP through drug trafficking, extortion, skimming of public contracts, and usury. Law enforcement is hampered by a lack of both human and financial resources.[45][46]

The principal difference with the Mafia is in recruitment methods. The 'Ndrangheta recruits members on the criterion of blood relationships resulting in an extraordinary cohesion within the family clan that presents a major obstacle to investigation. Sons of 'ndranghetisti are expected to follow in their fathers' footsteps, and go through a grooming process in their youth to become giovani d'onore (boys of honour) before they eventually enter the ranks as uomini d'onore (men of honour). There are relatively few Calabrian mafiosi who have opted out to become a pentito; at the end of 2002, there were 157 Calabrian witnesses in the state witness protection program.[47] Unlike the Sicilian Mafia in the early 1990s, they have meticulously avoided a head-on confrontation with the Italian state.

Prosecution in Calabria is hindered by the fact that Italian judges and prosecutors who score highly in exams get to choose their posting; those who are forced to work in Calabria will usually request to be transferred right away.[24] With weak government presence and corrupt officials, few civilians are willing to speak out against the organization.


Organizational structure

Formulas from the code of the 'Ndrangheta: The three handwritten pages describe the text for the speech held when a member is promoted to a higher ranking. The text reads awkwardly for a native speaker—it is composed in an uncertain Italian with many grammatical and orthographic mistakes.[47]
Formulas from the code of the 'Ndrangheta: The three handwritten pages describe the text for the speech held when a member is promoted to a higher ranking. The text reads awkwardly for a native speaker—it is composed in an uncertain Italian with many grammatical and orthographic mistakes.[47]
'Ndrangheta structure (labeled in Italian).
'Ndrangheta structure (labeled in Italian).

Both the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the 'Ndrangheta are loose confederations of about one hundred organised groups, also called "cosche" or families, each of which claims sovereignty over a territory, usually a town or village, though without ever fully conquering and legitimizing its monopoly of violence.[48]

There are approximately 100 of these families, totaling between 4,000 and 5,000 members in Reggio Calabria.[44][49][50] Other estimates mention 6,000–7,000 men; worldwide there might be some 10,000 members.[24]

Most of the groups (86) operate in the Province of Reggio Calabria, although a portion of the recorded 70 criminal groups based in the Calabrian provinces Catanzaro and Cosenza also appears to be formally affiliated with the 'Ndrangheta.[51] The families are concentrated in poor villages in Calabria such as Platì, Locri, San Luca, Africo and Altomonte as well as the main city and provincial capital Reggio Calabria.[52] San Luca is considered to be the stronghold of the 'Ndrangheta. According to a former 'ndranghetista, "almost all the male inhabitants belong to the 'Ndrangheta, and the Sanctuary of Polsi has long been the meeting place of the affiliates."[53] Bosses from outside Calabria, from as far as Canada and Australia, regularly attend the meetings at the Sanctuary of Polsi.[51]

The basic local organizational unit of the 'Ndrangheta is called a locale (local or place) with jurisdiction over an entire town or an area in a large urban center.[54] A locale may have branches, called 'ndrina (plural: 'ndrine), in the districts of the same city, in neighbouring towns and villages, or even outside Calabria, in cities and towns in the industrial North of Italy in and around Turin and Milan: for example, Bardonecchia, an alpine town in the province of Turin in Piedmont, has been, the first municipality in northern Italy dissolved for alleged mafia infiltration, with the arrest of the historical 'Ndrangheta boss of the city, Rocco Lo Presti.[55] The small towns of Corsico and Buccinasco in Lombardy are considered to be strongholds of the 'Ndrangheta. Sometimes sotto 'ndrine are established. These subunits enjoy a high degree of autonomy – they have a leader and independent staff. In some contexts the 'ndrine have become more powerful than the locale on which they formally depend.[53] Other observers maintain that the 'ndrina is the basic organizational unit. Each 'ndrina is "autonomous on its territory and no formal authority stands above the " 'ndrina boss", according to the Antimafia Commission. The 'ndrina is usually in control of a small town or a neighborhood. If more than one 'ndrina operates in the same town, they form a locale.[51]

Blood family and membership of the crime family overlap to a great extent within the 'Ndrangheta. By and large, the 'ndrine consist of men belonging to the same family lineage. Salvatore Boemi, anti-mafia prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, told the Italian Antimafia Commission that "one becomes a member for the simple fact of being born in a mafia family," although other reasons might attract a young man to seek membership, and non-kin have also been admitted. Marriages help cement relations within each 'ndrina and to expand membership. As a result, a few blood families constitute each group, hence "a high number of people with the same last name often end up being prosecuted for membership of a given 'ndrina." Indeed, since there is no limit to the membership of a single unit, bosses try to maximize descendants.[51]

At the bottom of the chain of command are the picciotti d'onore or soldiers, who are expected to perform tasks with blind obedience until they are promoted to the next level of cammorista, where they will be granted command over their own group of soldiers. The next level, separated by the 'ndrina but part of 'Ndrangheta, is known as santista and higher still is the vangelista, upon which the up-and-coming gangster has to swear their dedication to a life of crime on the Bible. The Quintino, also called Padrino, is the second-highest level of command in a 'Ndrangheta clan (name Ndrina), being made up of five privileged members of the crime family who report directly to the boss, the capobastone (head of command).[56]

Power structure

For many years, the power apparatus of the single families were the sole ruling bodies within the two associations, and they have remained the real centers of power even after superordinate bodies were created in the Cosa Nostra beginning in the 1950s (the Sicilian Mafia Commission) and in the 'Ndrangheta a superordinate body was created only in 1991 as the result of negotiations to end years of inter-family violence.[48]

Unlike the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta managed to maintain a horizontal organizational structure up to the early 1990s, avoiding the establishment of a formal superordinate body. Information of several witnesses has undermined the myth of absolute autonomy of Calabrian crime families, however. At least since the end of the 19th century, stable mechanisms for coordination and dispute settlement were created. Contacts and meetings among the bosses of the locali were frequent.[57]

A new investigation, known as Operation Crimine, which ended in July 2010 with an arrest of 305 'Ndrangheta members revealed that the 'ndrangheta was extremely "hierarchical, united and pyramidal," and not just clan-based as previously believed, as said by Italy's chief anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso.[58]

At least since the 1950s, the chiefs of the 'Ndrangheta locali have met regularly near the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Polsi in the municipality of San Luca during the September Feast. These annual meetings, known as the crimine, have traditionally served as a forum to discuss future strategies and settle disputes among the locali. The assembly exercises weak supervisory powers over the activities of all 'Ndrangheta groups. Strong emphasis was placed on the temporary character of the position of the crimine boss. A new representative was elected at each meeting.[57] Far from being the "boss of the bosses," the capo crimine actually has comparatively little authority to interfere in family feuds or to control the level of interfamily violence.[51]

At these meetings, every boss "must give account of all the activities carried out during the year and of all the most important facts taking place in his territory such as kidnappings, homicides, etc."[57] The historical preeminence of the San Luca family is such that every new group or locale must obtain its authorization to operate and every group belonging to the 'Ndrangheta "still has to deposit a small percentage of illicit proceeds to the principale of San Luca in recognition of the latter's primordial supremacy."[59]

Security concerns have led to the creation in the 'Ndrangheta of a secret society within the secret society: La Santa. Membership in the Santa is only known to other members. Contrary to the code, it allowed bosses to establish close connections with state representatives, even to the extent that some were affiliated with the Santa. These connections were often established through the Freemasonry, which the santisti - breaking another rule of the traditional code - were allowed to join.[48][60]

Since the end of the Second 'Ndrangheta war in 1991, the 'Ndrangheta is ruled by a collegial body or Commission, known as La Provincia. Its primary function is the settlement of inter-family disputes.[61][62] The body, also referred to as the Commission in reference to its Sicilian counterpart, is composed of three lower bodies, known as mandamenti. One for the clans on the Ionic side (the Aspromonte mountains and Locride) of Calabria, a second for the Tyrrhenian side (the plains of Gioia Tauro) and one central mandamento for the city of Reggio Calabria.[61]


According to Italian DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, Department of the Police of Italy against organized crime) and Guardia di Finanza (Italian Financial Police and Customs Police) the "'Ndrangheta is now one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world."[63][64] Economic activities of 'Ndrangheta include international cocaine and weapons smuggling, with Italian investigators estimating that 80% of Europe's cocaine passes through the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro and is controlled by the 'Ndrangheta.[24] However, according to a report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol, the Iberian Peninsula is considered the main entry point for cocaine into Europe and a gateway to the European market.[65] The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that in 2007 nearly ten times as much cocaine was intercepted in Spain (almost 38 MT) in comparison with Italy (almost 4 MT).[66]

'Ndrangheta groups and Sicilian Cosa Nostra groups sometimes act as joint ventures in cocaine trafficking enterprises.[67][68] Further activities include skimming money off large public work construction projects, money laundering and traditional crimes such as usury and extortion. 'Ndrangheta invests illegal profits in legal real estate and financial activities.

In early February 2017, the Carabinieri arrested 33 suspects in the Calabrian mafia's Piromalli 'ndrina ('Ndrangheta) which was allegedly exporting fake extra virgin olive oil to the U.S.; the product was actually inexpensive olive pomace oil fraudulently labeled.[69] In early 2016, the American television program 60 Minutes had warned that "the olive oil business has been corrupted by the Mafia" and that "Agromafia" was $16-billion per year enterprise.[70]

The business volume of the 'Ndrangheta is estimated at almost 44 billion euro in 2007, approximately 2.9% of Italy's GDP, according to Eurispes (European Institute of Political, Economic and Social Studies) in Italy. Drug trafficking is the most profitable activity with 62% of the total turnover.[71]

Total turnover of the 'Ndrangheta in 2007
Illicit activity Income
Drug trafficking  €   27.240 billion
Commercial enterprise and public contracts    €   5.733 billion
Extortion and usury  €   5.017 billion
Arms trafficking  €   2.938 billion
Prostitution and human trafficking  €   2.867 billion
Total  € 43.795 billion

Outside Italy

The 'Ndrangheta has had a remarkable ability to establish branches abroad, mainly through migration. The overlap of blood and mafia family seems to have helped the 'Ndrangheta expand beyond its traditional territory: "The familial bond has not only worked as a shield to protect secrets and enhance security, but also helped to maintain identity in the territory of origin and reproduce it in territories where the family has migrated." 'Ndrine are reported to be operating in northern Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the rest of Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.[51] One group of 'ndranghetistas discovered outside Italy was in Ontario, Canada, several decades ago. They were dubbed the Siderno Group by Canadian judges as most of its members hailed from and around Siderno.[72]

Magistrates in Calabria sounded the alarm a few years ago about the international scale of the 'Ndrangheta's operations. It is now believed to have surpassed the traditional axis between the Sicilian and American Cosa Nostra, to become the major importer of cocaine to Europe.[73] Outside Italy 'Ndrangheta operates in several countries, such as:


In November 2006, a cocaine trafficking network that operated in Argentina, Spain and Italy was dismantled. The Argentinian police said the 'Ndrangheta had roots in the country and shipped cocaine through Spain to Milan and Turin.[74]


Known by the name "The Honoured Society," the 'Ndrangheta controlled Italian-Australian organized crime all along the East Coast of Australia since the early 20th century. 'Ndrangheta operating in Australia include the Sergi, Barbaro and Papalia clans.[75] Similarly in Victoria the major families are named as Italiano, Arena, Muratore, Benvenuto, and Condello. In the 1960s warfare among 'Ndrangheta clans broke out over the control of the Victoria Market in Melbourne, where an estimated $45 million worth of fruits and vegetables passed through each year. After the death of Domenico Italiano, known as Il Papa, different clans tried to gain control over the produce market. At the time it was unclear that most involved were affiliated with the 'Ndrangheta.[76][77]

The 'Ndrangheta began in Australia in Queensland, where they continued their form of rural organized crime, especially in the fruit and vegetable industry. After the 1998–2006 Melbourne gangland killings which included the murder of 'Ndrangheta Godfather Frank Benvenuto. In 2008, the 'Ndrangheta were tied to the importation of 15 million ecstasy pills to Melbourne, at the time the world's largest ecstasy haul. The pills were hidden in a container-load of tomato cans from Calabria. Australian 'Ndrangheta boss Pasquale Barbaro was arrested. Pasquale Barbaro's father Francesco Barbaro was a boss throughout the 1970s and early 1980s until his retirement.[78] Several of the Barbaro clan, including among others, Francesco, were suspected in orchestrating the murder of Australian businessman Donald Mackay in July 1977 for his anti-drugs campaign.[79]

Italian authorities believe that former Western Australian mayor of the city of Stirling, Tony Vallelonga, is an associate of Giuseppe Commisso, boss of the Siderno clan of the Ndrangheta.[80] In 2009, Italian police overheard the two discussing Ndrangheta activities.[80] Since migrating from Italy to Australia in 1963, Vallelonga has "established a long career in grass-roots politics."[81]

The 'Ndrangheta are also tied to large cocaine imports. Up to 500 kilograms of cocaine was documented relating to the mafia and Australian associates smuggled in slabs of marble, plastic tubes and canned tuna, coming from South America to Melbourne via Italy between 2002 and 2004.[82]


'Ndrangheta clans purchased almost "an entire neighbourhood" in Brussels with laundered money originating from drug trafficking. On 5 March 2004, 47 people were arrested, accused of drug trafficking and money laundering to purchase real estate in Brussels for some 28 million euros. The activities extended to the Netherlands where large quantities of heroin and cocaine had been purchased by the Pesce-Bellocco clan from Rosarno and the Strangio clan from San Luca.[83][84]


Forces of the Brazilian Polícia Federal have linked illegal drug trading activities in Brazil to Ndragueta in operation Monte Pollino,[85] which disassembled cocaine exportation schemes to Europe.


According to a May 2018 news report, "Siderno's Old World 'Ndrangheta boss sent acolytes to populate the New World" including Michele (Mike) Racco who settled in Toronto in 1952, followed by other mob families. By 2010, investigators in Italy said that Toronto's 'Ndrangheta had climbed "to the top of the criminal world" with "an unbreakable umbilical cord" to Calabria.[86] In the 2018 book, The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World's Most Powerful Mafia, Alex Perry reports that the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta has, for the past decade, been replacing the Sicilian Cosa Nostra as the primary drug traffickers in North America.[87]

During a 2018 trial in Toronto, ex-mobster Carmine Guido told the court that the 'Ndrangheta is a collection of family-based clans, each with its own boss, working within a uniform structure and under board of control.[88]

The Canadian 'Ndrangheta is believed to be involved in various activities including the smuggling of unlicensed tobacco products through ties with criminal elements in cross-border Native American tribes.[89] According to Alberto Cisterna of the Italian National Anti-Mafia Directorate, the 'Ndrangheta has a heavy presence in Canada. "There is a massive number of their people in North America, especially in Toronto. And for two reasons. The first is linked to the banking system. Canada's banking system is very secretive; it does not allow investigation. So Canada is the ideal place to launder money. The second reason is to smuggle drugs." The 'Ndrangheta have found Canada a useful North American entry point.[90] The organization used extortion, loan sharking, theft, electoral crimes, mortgage and bank fraud, crimes of violence and cocaine trafficking.[91][92]

A Canadian branch labelled the Siderno Group – because its members primarily came from the Ionian coastal town of Siderno in Calabria – is the one discussed earlier. It has been active in Canada since the 1950s, originally formed by Michele (Mike) Racco who was the head of the Group until 1980. Siderno is also home to one of the 'Ndrangheta's biggest and most important clans, heavily involved in the global cocaine business and money laundering.[90] Antonio Commisso, the alleged leader of the Siderno group, is reported to lead efforts to import "... illicit arms, explosives and drugs ..."[93] Elements of 'Ndrangheta have been reported to have been present in Hamilton, Ontario as early as 1911.[94] Historical crime families in the Hamilton area include the Musitanos, Luppinos and Papalias. The Luppino family, also known as the Luppino-Violi family, was led by Giacomo Luppino who was considered to be a significant player in Southern Ontario's organized crime until his death in 1987. Other members of the family continued his work, including Cece Luppino who was murdered in January 2019. His cousins Domenico and Giuseppe (Joe) Violi had been sentenced to prison for drug trafficking not long before the hit on Cece.[95]

According to an agreed Statement of Fact filed with the court, "the Locali [local cells] outside of Calabria replicate the structure from Calabria, and are connected to their mother-Locali in Calabria. The authority to start Locali outside Calabria comes from the governing bodies of the organization in Calabria. The Locali outside of Calabria are part of the same 'Ndrangheta organization as in Calabria, and maintain close relationships with the Locali where its members come from." The group's activities in the Greater Toronto Area were controlled by a group known as the 'Camera Di Controllo' (the board of directors of La Provincia) which "makes all of the final decisions", according to the witness' testimony.[91] It consists of six or seven Toronto-area men, who co-ordinate activities and resolves disputes among Calabrian gangsters in Southern Ontario. In 1962, Giacomo Luppino and Rocco Zito established the Camera di Controllo in Canada.[96][97] One of the members was Giuseppe Coluccio, before he was arrested and extradited to Italy.[98] Other members are Vincenzo DeMaria,[99][100] Carmine Verduci before his death,[101] and Cosimo Stalteri before his death.[102]

After living in Richmond Hill, Ontario for five years until 2010, Antonio Coluccio (who had used the alias Giuseppe Scarfo in Canada) was one of 29 people named in arrest warrants in Italy in September 2014. Police said they were part of the Commisso 'ndrina ('Ndrangheta) crime family in Siderno. In July 2018, Coluccio was sentenced to 30 years in prison for corruption. His two brothers, including Salvatore and Giuseppe Coluccio, were already in prison due to Mafia-related convictions.[103]

In June 2018, Cosimo Ernesto Commisso, of Woodbridge, Ontario and an unrelated woman were shot and killed. According to sources contacted by the Toronto Star, "Commisso was related to Cosimo "The Quail" Commisso of Siderno, Italy, who has had relations in Ontario, is considered by police to be a "'Ndrangheta organized crime boss".[104] The National Post reported that Cosimo Ernesto Commisso, while not a known criminal, "shares a name and family ties with a man who has for decades been reputed to be a Mafia leader in the Toronto area".[105] The cousin of "The Quail", Antonio Commisso, was on the list of most wanted fugitives in Italy until his capture on 28 June 2005, in Woodbridge.[106]

In June 2015, RCMP led police raids across the Greater Toronto Area, named Project OPhoenix, which resulted in the arrest of 19 men, allegedly affiliated with the 'Ndrangheta. In March 2018, during the resultant criminal trial north of Toronto, the court heard from a Carabinieri lieutenant-colonel that 'Ndrangheta is active in Germany, Australia and the Greater Toronto Area. "People in Italy have to be responsible for their representatives here but the final word comes from Italy".[107] A member of the Greater Toronto Area's 'Ndrangheta cell, Carmine Guido, who had been a police informant, testified at length in 2018 about the structure and activities of the organization which had been under the control of Italian-born Bradford, Ontario resident, Giuseppe (Pino) Ursino and Romanian-born Cosmin (Chris) Dracea of Toronto. The latter two faced two counts of cocaine trafficking for the benefit of a criminal organization and one charge of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.[108] Guido was paid $2.4 million by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police between 2013 and 2015 to secretly tape dozens of conversations with suspected 'Ndrangheta members.[108][109][110] In February 2019, Ursino was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison on drug trafficking charges, with Dracea sentenced to nine years in prison on cocaine trafficking conspiracy. Neither had a previous criminal record. At the sentencing, the presiding judge made this comment: "Based on the evidence at trial, Giuseppe Ursino is a high-ranking member of the 'Ndrangheta who orchestrated criminal conduct and then stepped back to lessen his potential implication" ... Cosmin Dracea knew he was dealing with members of a criminal organization when he conspired to import cocaine".[111]

During the Ursino/Dracea trial, an Italian police expert testified that the 'Ndrangheta operated in the Greater Toronto Area and in Thunder Bay particularly in drug trafficking, extortion, loan sharking, theft of public funds, robbery, fraud, electoral crimes and crimes of violence. After the trial, Tom Andreopoulos, deputy chief federal prosecutor, said that this was the first time in Canada that the 'Ndrangheta was targeted as an organized crime group since 1997, when the Criminal Code was amended to include the offence of criminal organization.[112] He offered this comment about the organization:[113]

"We're talking about structured organized crime. We're talking about a political entity, almost; a culture of crime that colonizes across the sea from Italy to Canada. This is one of the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world."

On 18 July 2019, the York Regional Police announced the largest organized crime bust in Ontario, part of an 18-month long operation called Project Sindicato that was also coordinated with the Italian State Police.[114] York Regional Police had arrested 15 people in Canada, 12 people in Calabria, and seized $35 million worth of homes, sports cars and cash in a major trans-Atlantic probe targeting the most prominent wing of the 'Ndrangheta in Canada headed by Angelo Figliomeni. On July 14 and 15, approximately 500 officers raided 48 homes and businesses across the GTA, seizing 27 homes worth $24 million, 23 cars, including five Ferraris, and $2 million in cash and jewelry. Nine of the 15 arrests in Canada included major crime figures: Angelo Figliomeni, Vito Sili, Nick Martino, Emilio Zannuti, Erica Quintal, Salvatore Oliveti, Guiseppe Ciurleo, Rafael Lepore and Francesco Vitucci.[115] The charges laid included tax evasion, money laundering, defrauding the government and participating in a criminal organization.[116]

During a press conference in Vaughan, Ontario, Fausto Lamparelli of the Italian State Police, offered this comment about the relationship between the 'Ndrangheta in Ontario and Calabria:[117]

"This investigation allowed us to learn something new. The 'Ndrangheta crime families in Canada are able to operate autonomously, without asking permission or seeking direction from Italy. Traditionally, 'Ndrangheta clans around the world are all subservient to the mother ship in Calabria. It suggests the power and influence the Canadian-based clans have built."

On 9 August 2019, as part of the same joint investigation, several former Greater Toronto Area residents were arrested in Calabria, including Francesco Commisso, Rocco Remo Commisso, Antonio Figliomeni and Cosimo Figiomeni.[118]


The 'Ndrangheta clans were closely associated with the AUC paramilitary groups led Salvatore Mancuso, a son of Italian immigrants; he surrendered to Álvaro Uribe's government to avoid extradition to the U.S.[119] According to Giuseppe Lumia of the Italian Parliamentary Antimafia Commission, 'Ndrangheta clans are actively involved in the production of cocaine.[120]


According to a study by the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), 'Ndrangheta groups are using Germany to invest cash from drugs and weapons smuggling. Profits are invested in hotels, restaurants and houses, especially along the Baltic coast and in the eastern German states of Thuringia and Saxony.[121][122] Investigators believe that the mafia's bases in Germany are used primarily for clandestine financial transactions. In 1999, the state Office of Criminal Investigation in Stuttgart investigated an Italian from San Luca who had allegedly laundered millions through a local bank, the Sparkasse Ulm. The man claimed that he managed a profitable car dealership, and authorities were unable to prove that the business was not the source of his money. The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) concluded in 2000 that "the activities of this 'Ndrangheta clan represent a multi-regional criminal phenomenon."[123] In 2009, a confidential report by the BKA said some 229 'Ndrangheta families were living in Germany, and were involved in gun-running, money laundering, drug-dealing, and racketeering, as well as legal businesses. Some 900 people were involved in criminal activity, and were also legal owners of hundreds of restaurants, as well as being major players in the property market in the former East. The most represented 'Ndrangheta family originated from the city of San Luca (Italy), with some 200 members in Germany.[124][125] A war between the two 'Ndrangheta clans Pelle-Romeo (Pelle-Vottari) and Strangio-Nirta from San Luca that had started in 1991 and resulted in several deaths spilled into Germany in 2007; six men were shot to death in front of an Italian restaurant in Duisburg on 15 August 2007.[126][127][128] (See San Luca feud.) According to the head of the German federal police service, Joerg Ziercke, "Half of the criminal groups identified in Germany belong to the 'Ndrangheta. It has been the biggest criminal group since the 1980s. Compared to other groups operating in Germany, the Italians have the strongest organization."[129]


Sebastiano Strangio allegedly lived for 10 years in the Netherlands, where he managed his contacts with Colombian cocaine cartels. He was arrested in Amsterdam on 27 October 2005.[130][131][132] The seaports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam are used to import cocaine. The Giorgi, Nirta and Strangio clans from San Luca have a base in the Netherlands and Brussels (Belgium).[133] In March 2012, the head of the Dutch National Crime Squad (Dienst Nationale Recherche, DNR) stated that the DNR will team up with the Tax and Customs Administration and the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service to combat the 'Ndrangheta.[134]


David Gonzi, a son of former Prime Minister of Malta Lawrence Gonzi, was accused of illegal activities by acting as a trustee shareholder in a gaming company. The company in question was operated by a Calabrian associate of the 'Ndrangheta in Malta. His name appeared several times on an investigation document of over 750 pages that was commissioned by the tribunal of the Reggio Calabria. Gonzi called the document unprofessional. A European arrest warrant was published for Gonzi to appear at the tribunal but this never materialised. Gonzi, however, was completely exonerated from the list of potential suspects in the 'Ndrangheta gaming bust.[135]

After investigation of the presence of the 'Ndrangheta, 21 gaming outlets had their operation license temporarily suspended in Malta due to irregularities in a period of one year.[136][137][138]

In a Notice of the Conclusion of the Investigation dated 30 June 2016, criminal action was commenced in Italy against 113 persons originally mentioned in the investigation. [139]


The 'Ndrangheta works in conjunction with a Mexican drug cartel mercenary army known as Los Zetas in the drug trade.[140]


In February 2018, Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was shot dead at his home together with his fiancée. At the time of the murder, Kuciak was working on a report about the activities of 'Ndrangheta in Slovakia, including its ties to Slovak politicians.[141]


The crime syndicate has a significant presence in Switzerland since the early 1970s but has operated there with little scrutiny due to the inconspicuous life styles of their members, the Swiss legal landscape, and solid foundations in local businesses. In the aftermath of the San Luca feud in 2007 and subsequent arrests in Italy (Operation "Crimine"), it became clear that the group had also infiltrated the economically proliferous regions of Switzerland and Southern Germany. In March 2016, Swiss law enforcement in cooperation with Italian state prosecutors arrested a total of 15 individuals, 13 in the city of Frauenfeld, 2 in the Kanton of Valais, accusing them of active membership to an organized crime syndicate also known as "Operazione Helvetica".[142] Since 2015, the Swiss federal police has conducted undercover surveillance and recorded the group's meetings in a restaurant establishment in a small village just outside of Frauenfeld. The meetings were taking place in a relatively remote location using the now defunct entity the "Wängi Boccia Club" as its cover. According to the Italian prosecutor Antonio De Bernardo, there are several cells operating within the jurisdiction of the Swiss Federation, estimating the number of operatives per cell to about 40, and a couple of 100 in total. All of the arrested persons are Italian citizens, the two men arrested in the Valais have already been extradited to Italy, and as of August 2016, one individual arrested in Frauenfeld has been approved for extradition to Italy.[143]

United Kingdom

In London, the Aracri and Fazzari clans are thought to be active in money laundering, catering and drug trafficking.[144]

United States

The earliest evidence of 'Ndrangheta activity in the U.S. points to an intimidation scheme run by the syndicate in Pennsylvania mining towns; this scheme was unearthed in 1906.[145] Current 'Ndrangheta activities in America mainly involve drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and money laundering. It is known that the 'Ndrangheta branches in North America have been associating with Italian-American organized crime. The Suraci family from Reggio Calabria has moved some of its operations to the U.S. The family was founded by Giuseppe Suraci who has been in the United States since 1962. His younger cousin, Antonio Rogliano runs the family in Calabria. On Tuesday, 11 February 2014, both F.B.I. and Italian Police intercepted the transatlantic network of U.S. and Italian crime families. The raid targeted the Gambino and Bonanno families in the U.S. while in Italy, it targeted the Ursino 'ndrina from Gioiosa Jonica. The defendants were charged with drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses, based, in part, on their participation in a transnational heroin and cocaine trafficking conspiracy involving the 'Ndrangheta.[146] The operation began in 2012 when investigators detected a plan by members of the Ursino clan of the 'Ndrangheta to smuggle large amounts of drugs. An undercover agent was dispatched to Italy and was successful in infiltrating the clan. An undercover agent was also involved in the handover of 1.3 kg of heroin in New York as part of the infiltration operation.[147]


On 24 June 2019, 'Ndrangheta leader Rocco Morabito, dubbed the "cocaine king of Milan", escaped from Central Prison in Montevideo alongside three other inmates, escaping "through a hole in the roof of the building". Morabito was awaiting extradition to Italy for international drug trafficking, having been arrested at a Montevideo hotel in 2017 after living in Punta del Este under a false name for 13 years.[148]

In popular culture

Beginning in 2000, music producer Francesco Sbano released three CD compilations of Italian mafia folk songs over a five-year period.[149] Collectively known as La musica della mafia, these compilations consist mainly of songs written by 'Ndrangheta musicians, often sung in Calabrian and dealing with themes such as vengeance (Sangu chiama sangu), betrayal (I cunfirenti), justice within the 'Ndrangheta (Nun c'è pirdunu), and the ordeal of prison life (Canto di carcerato).[150]

See also


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External links

Media related to 'Ndrangheta at Wikimedia Commons

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