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Title: 'Ndrangheta  
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Subject: Sacra Corona Unita, Penose, Antonio Nirta, Pizzo (extortion), Operation Solare
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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 [3][4] 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.[5]

These secret societies in the areas of Calabria rich in olives and vines were distinct from the often anarchic forms of 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.[6]

In the folk culture surrounding 'Ndrangheta in Calabrian word 'Ndrangheta derives from Greek[7] ἀνδραγαθία andragathía for "heroism" and manly "virtue"[8] or ἀνδράγαϑος andragathos, compound words of ἀνήρ, anēr (gen. andros), i.e. man[9] and ἀγαθός, agathos, i.e. good, brave,[10] meaning a courageous man.[11][12] In many areas of Calabria the verb 'ndranghitiari, from the Greek verb andragathizesthai,[13] means "to engage in a defiant and valiant attitude".[14]

The first time the word 'Ndrangheta was mentioned before a wider audience was by the Calabrian writer Corrado Alvaro in the Corriere della Sera in September 1955.[15][16]

Modern history

Until 1975, the 'Ndrangheta restricted their Italian operations to Calabria, mainly involved in extortion and blackmailing. Then a gang war started, killing 300 people. The prevailing faction began to kidnap rich people from northern Italy for ransom. It is believed that cocaine from Colombia.[19]

Deputy President of the regional parliament of Calabria Ammazzateci tutti!",[20] 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.[21]

In March 2006, the national anti-Mafia prosecutor announced the discovery of a narco submarine in Colombia, allegedly being constructed on behalf of the 'Ndrangheta for smuggling cocaine. [22]

The 'Ndrangheta has recently expanded its activities to Northern Italy, mainly to sell drugs and to invest in legal businesses which could be used for money laundering. The mayor of Buccinasco was threatened when he tried to halt these investments; in May 2007 twenty members of 'Ndrangheta were arrested in Milan.[21] 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.[23]

On 9 October 2012, following a months long investigation by the central government the City Council of Reggio Calabria headed by Mayor Demetrio Arena (it) 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.[24][25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

'Ndrangheta infiltration of political offices is not limited to Calabria. On October 10, 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.[28] 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.[29][30]

In 2014, in FBI and Italian police's joint operation New Bridge arrested members of both the Gambino and Bonanno families.[31] In June 2014, 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.[32]


Italian anti-organized crime agencies estimated in 2007 that the 'Ndrangheta has annual revenue of about 35–40 billion (US$50–60 billion), which amounts to approximately 3.5% of the GDP of Italy.[19][21] This comes mostly from illegal drug trafficking, but also from ostensibly legal businesses such as construction, restaurants and supermarkets.[33] 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.[34][35]

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 honor) before they eventually enter the ranks as uomini d’onore (men of honor). 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.[36] 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.[19] 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.[36]
'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.[37]

There are approximately 100 of these families, totaling between 4,000 and 5,000 members in Reggio Calabria.[33][38][39] Other estimates mention 6,000-7,000 men; worldwide there might be some 10,000 members.[19]

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.[40] 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.[41] 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."[42] Bosses from outside Calabria, from as far as Canada and Australia, regularly attend the meetings at the Sanctuary of Polsi.[40]

The basic local organizational unit of the 'Ndrangheta is called a '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.[40]

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.[40]

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).[44]

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.[37]

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.[45]

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.[46]

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.[45] 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.[40]

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."[45] 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."[42]

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.[37][47]

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.[48][49] 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.[48]

According to a 2013 "Threat Assessment on Italian Organised Crime" of [50]


According to Italian DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, Department of the Police of Italy against organized crime) and [51][52] 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.[19] 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.[53] 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).[54]

'Ndrangeta groups and Sicilian Cosa Nostra groups sometimes act as joint ventures in cocaine trafficking enterprises.[55][56] 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.

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.[57]

Total turnover of the 'Ndrangheta in 2007
Illicit activity Income
Drug trafficking  € 27.240 billion
Commercial enterprise & public contracts    €   5.733 billion
Extortion & usury  €   5.017 billion
Arms trafficking  €   2.938 billion
Prostitution  €   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.[40] 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 Siderno.[58]

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.[59] 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.[60]


Known by the name "Barbaro and Papalia clans.[61] 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.[62][63]

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.[64] 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.[65]

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.[66] In 2009, Italian police overheard the two discussing Ndrangheta activities.[66] Since migrating from Italy to Australia in 1963, Vallelonga has "established a long career in grass-roots politics".[67]


'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.[68][69]


In Canada, the 'Ndrangheta is believed to be involved in the smuggling of unlicensed [71] A Canadian branch labelled the Siderno Group – because its members primarily came from the Ionian coastal town of Siderno in Calabria – is based in Canada at least since the 1950s. 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.[71] Antonio Commisso, the alleged leader of the Siderno group, is reported to lead efforts to import "...illicit arms, explosives and drugs..."[72] Elements of 'Ndrangheta have been reported to have been present in Hamilton, Canada as early as 1911.[73]


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.[74] According to Giuseppe Lumia of the Italian Parliamentary Antimafia Commission, 'Ndrangheta clans are actively involved in the production of cocaine.[75]


According to a study by the German foreign intelligence service, the [84]


San Luca have a base in the Netherlands and Brussels (Belgium).[88] 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.[89]


Working in conjunction with a Mexican drug cartel mercenary army known as Los Zetas in the drug trade.[90]

United Kingdom

In London, the Aracri and Fazzari clans are thought to be active in money laundering, catering and drug trafficking.[91]

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.[92] 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 the 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, D'Agostino, runs the family in Calabria. On Tuesday, 11 February 2014, both F.B.I and Italian Police, break transatlantic network of US and Italian crime families. The raid targeted the Gambino and Bonanno crime families in the U.S. while in Italy, targeted the Ursino 'ndrina from Gioiosa Jonica. The defendants are 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.[93] 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.[94]

In popular culture

Beginning in 2000, music producer Francesco Sbano (it) released three CD compilations of Italian mafia folk songs over a five-year period.[95] Collectively known as La Musica della Mafia (it), these compilations consist mainly of songs written by 'Ndrangheta musicians, often sung in Calabrian and dealing with themes such as vengeance (Sangue chiama sangue), betrayal (I cunfirenti), justice within the 'Ndrangheta (Nun c’è perdono), and the ordeal of prison life (Canto di carcerato).[96]

See also


[p] - ^The word 'Ndrangheta is pronounced "en-drahng-eh-ta" as respelled, although the first syllable is silent in Calabrian unless immediately preceded by a vowel.[19]
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  • Behan, Tom (1996). The Camorra, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-09987-0
  • (Italian) Gratteri, Nicola & Antonio Nicaso (2006). Fratelli di sangue, Cosenza: Pellegrini Editore, ISBN 88-8101-373-8
  • Paoli, Letizia (2003). Mafia Brotherhoods: Organized Crime, Italian Style, New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-515724-9 (Review by Klaus Von Lampe) (Review by Alexandra V. Orlova)
  • Truzzolillo, Fabio. "The 'Ndrangheta: the current state of historical research," Modern Italy (August 2011) 16#3 pp 363–383.
  • Varese, Federico. "How Mafias Migrate: The Case of the 'Ndrangheta in Northern Italy." Law & Society Review, June 2006.

External links

  • (Italian) Il fatturato della ’Ndrangheta Holding: 2,9% del Pil nel 2007, 'Ndrangheta Holding Dossier 2008, Centro Documentazione Eurispes
  • (Italian) DIA, with bi-annual reports on organized crime in Italy
  • (Italian) Italian Guardia di Finanza Website
  • Italian organized crime groups (Abstracted from: The Global Mafia, The New World Order of Organized Crime)
  • (Italian) Ammazzateci tutti, anti-'Ndrangheta organization
  • (Italian) Relazione annuale sulla 'ndrangheta, Commissione parlamentare di inchiesta sul fenomeno della criminalità organizzata mafiosa o similare (Relatore: Francesco Forgione), February 2008
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