A court this Monday sentenced more than 200 members of the ‘Ndrangheta’ group to more than 2,200 years in prison in one of the biggest trials by mafia in the history of Italy. The ‘Ndrangheta’ has supplanted the ‘Cosa Nostra’ of Sicily as the most powerful mafia organization in the country and has spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
The ‘Ndrangheta’ is originally from Calabria, in southern Italy. Its name is believed to come from the ancient Greek words “andros” and “agathos”, which mean man and brave. It expanded substantially starting in the 1970s, when it reinvested ransom money from kidnappings – one of its main activities at the time – in public works projects and drug trafficking, especially cocaine.
The ‘Ndrangheta’ kidnapped dozens of high-profile victims including celebrities such as John Paul Getty III, scion of the American oil family, captured in Rome in 1973 and held prisoner for five months in the mountains of Calabria. The group has been described as “the absolute dominant force in the criminal world” in a semi-annual report by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).
The strength of ‘Ndrangheta’ lies in their ability to rely on traditional loyalties of clans and families, while having “maximum flexibility” to explore new business opportunities in the legal and illegal economy, the DIA said. Likewise, he expressed that he also makes money from illegal waste trafficking, blackmail and usurytypically offering credit to distressed companies and then gradually taking control of them.
In 2008, the Italian research group Eurispes assessed the ‘Ndrangheta’s annual turnover of 44 billion of euros, approximately 3% of Italy’s GDP at the time. The ‘Ndrangheta are known to have an established presence as far away as Canada and Australia, as well as most of Western Europe, with local cells typically maintaining strong ties to their homeland of Calabria.
The police of all Europe arrested more than 100 people in May in a targeted offensive against the group, with suspects accused of drug and weapons trafficking with their counterparts in Latin America. The network allegedly used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to help move funds to pay for drug deals.