In recent years, the 'Ndrangheta has become the largest and most feared of the four criminal organizations in Italy, alongside the Camorra in the Naples area, Cosa Nostra in Sicily and Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia. Specializing in drug trafficking, the 'Ndrangheta has globalized in recent years. Our reporter investigates in Calabria, the organization's heartland.
The 'Ndrangheta controls the majority of international cocaine traffic, with an estimated 80 percent monopoly on European imports of the white powder. The organisation pulls in 44 billion euros a year; that's almost three percent of Italy's GDP, which means the 'Ndrangheta has as much financial clout as a small European country, or a huge multinational corporation.
Although it controls complex money-laundering circuits, the 'Ndrangheta derives its power from an archaic operation. The mafia is based in the country's poorest region: Calabria, far from the economic centres Rome and Milan.
In this region almost all companies have to pay the “pizzo”, the mafia's tax. Paying this price grants them relative tranquility. Every month, godfathers who are often hidden in small mountain villages buy several tons of cocaine from traffickers operating thousands miles away, in South America.