Monday, January 12, 2015
'Ndrangheta Mafia Calabraise
The ‛Ndrangheta (Italian: ‛ndràngheta, Italian pronunciation: [n̩ˈdraŋɡeta]) is a Mafia-type criminal organization in Italy, centered in Calabria. Despite not being as famous abroad as the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, and having been considered more rural compared to the Neapolitan Camorra and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, the 'Ndrangheta became the most powerful crime syndicate of Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While commonly tied together with the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta operates independently from the Sicilian Mafia, though there is contact between the two, due to the geographical proximity, and shared culture and language of Calabria and Sicily. A US diplomat estimated that the organization's drug trafficking, extortion and money-laundering activities accounted for at least 3 percent of Italy's GDP. Since the 1950s, the organization has spread towards the north of Italy and worldwide. The 'Ndrangheta is currently the most powerful criminal organization in the world with a revenue that stands at around 53 billion Euros annually (72 billion U.S. dollars - 44 billion British pounds).
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 Camorra was the older and better known criminal organization in Naples). 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.
These secret societies in the areas of Calabria rich in olives and vines were distinct from the often anarchic forms of banditry and were organized hierarchically with a code of conduct that included 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.
In the folk culture surrounding 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, references to the Spanish Garduña often appear. Aside from these references, however, there is nothing to substantiate a link between the two organizations. The Calabrian word 'Ndrangheta derives from Greek ἀνδραγαθία andragathía for "heroism" and manly "virtue" or ἀνδράγαϑος andragathos, compound words of ἀνήρ, anēr (gen. andros), i.e. man and ἀγαθός, agathos, i.e. good, brave, meaning a courageous man. In many areas of Calabria the verb 'ndranghitiari, from the Greek verb andragathizesthai, means "to engage in a defiant and valiant attitude".
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.
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 John Paul Getty III was one of their victims. The Second 'Ndrangheta war raged from 1985 to 1991. The bloody six-year war between the Condello-Imerti-Serraino-Rosmini clans and the De Stefano-Tegano-Libri-Latella clans led to more than 600 deaths. In the 1990s, the organization started to invest in the illegal international drug trade, mainly importing cocaine from Colombia.
Deputy President of the regional parliament of Calabria Francesco Fortugno was killed by the 'Ndrangheta on 16 October 2005 in Locri. Demonstrations against the organization then ensued, with young protesters carrying banderoles reading "Ammazzateci tutti!", 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
'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. 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.
In 2014, in FBI and Italian police's joint operation New Bridge arrested members of both the Gambino and Bonanno families. In June 2014, Pope Francis denounced the 'Ndrangheta as the "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good" and vowed that the Church would help tackle organized crime, saying that Mafiosi were 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.