In one of the largest trials in mafia history, a court in Italy sentenced over 200 members of the ‘Ndrangheta’ to more than 2,200 years in prison. This powerful criminal organization has taken over from the ‘Cosa Nostra’ of Sicily as the most dominant force in Italian organized crime and has spread across Europe and beyond.
The ‘Ndrangheta’ is believed to have originated in Calabria, southern Italy, and takes its name from ancient Greek words meaning “man” and “brave”. It first emerged as a significant threat in the 1970s when it reinvested ransom money from kidnappings into public works projects and drug trafficking, particularly cocaine. The group is known for its ability to rely on traditional loyalties of clans and families while maintaining maximum flexibility to explore new business opportunities in both the legal and illegal economy.
One of the key strengths of the ‘Ndrangheta’ is its control over illegal waste trafficking, blackmail, and usury. Typically, they offer credit to distressed companies and gradually take control of them. In 2008, Eurispes estimated that the group had an annual turnover of €44 billion, which was approximately 3% of Italy’s GDP at the time. The ‘Ndrangheta’ is said to have established presence as far away as Canada and Australia, with local cells maintaining strong ties to their homeland in Calabria.
In May 2018, police across Europe arrested more than 100 people in a targeted offensive against the group. Suspects were accused of drug and weapons trafficking with their counterparts in Latin America. It is alleged that they used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to help move funds for drug deals. Overall, this trial represents a major victory for Italian law enforcement agencies working tirelessly to combat organized crime.