Italian police have arrested more than 300 people in a major crackdown on the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, shedding new light upon a shadowy organisation that has grown to become the country’s most powerful and dreaded mafia.
Italian police on Tuesday made over 300 arrests, seized arms and confiscated tens of millions of euros of assets in a crackdown on the ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s most powerful mafia.
Hundreds of policemen swooped on suspected mafia agents in the southern Calabria region, the 'Ndrangheta’s traditional heartland, and in the wealthy north of Italy, into which the group has extended its operations.
Charges range from murder to money laundering, as well as belonging to an organised crime group.
The raids, which also included arrests in the United States and Canada, underscored the organisation’s global reach and shed new light upon its internal structure.
"This is the first time that the Ndrangheta has been hit at the core"
In recent decades, the 'Ndrangheta has grown to become the most dreaded of Italy’s four main crime syndicates, which include the Camorra in the area of Naples, Cosa Nostra in Sicily, and the smaller Sacra Corona Unita in the south-eastern region of Puglia.
It has expanded out of its Calabrian heartland to play a major role in organised crime throughout Europe and the global drugs trade, and was thrust into the spotlight in 2007 after a family feud led to the killing of six Italians in the German city of Duisburg.
‘On the ropes’
“This is the biggest blow inflicted on the ‘Ndrangheta in 30 years,” said Piero Colaprico of Italian daily La Repubblica, in an interview with FRANCE 24.
Among those arrested on Tuesday was Domenico Oppedisano, thought to be the organisation’s top leader.
“The 'Ndrangheta is now on the ropes,” said Colaprico. “But one must not forget that each time you cut a head off, someone else in the family steps up to take the person’s place.”
Crucially, the operation paves the way for a whole new understanding of how the Calabrian mafia works.
“The ‘Ndrangheta used to be seen as a loose, horizontal galaxy of independent groups spread out across the Calabrian hinterland,” said Colaprico. “Today, it is looking very much like a unitary, vertically-structured organization; much like the better-known Cosa Nostra in Sicily.”
The arrests in northern Italy, aimed at the 'Ndrangheta's commercial interests in the building and healthcare sectors, confirmed the growing focus of the organisation on the wealthy region of Lombardy, and its attempts to infiltrate local politics.
When it comes to Italy, “the ‘Ndrangheta’s head is in Calabria, but its business is in Milan,” said Colaprico.
This northward tilt led to a brief internal war in 2008, when an attempted secession by the “Lombard” branch was swiftly quashed by the organisation’s Calabrian bosses.
Date created : 2010-07-13