In a monumental trial that has shaken the criminal world, a court in Italy sentenced over 200 members of the ‘Ndrangheta’ mafia group to more than 2,200 years in prison on Monday. This marks one of the largest trials by mafia in Italian history, and it has brought to light the extent of their power and influence.
The ‘Ndrangheta’ is an organization with deep roots in Calabria, southern Italy, but its reach extends far beyond its homeland. Its name is believed to come from ancient Greek words “andros” and “agathos”, meaning man and brave. The group began to expand substantially in the 1970s when it reinvested ransom money from kidnappings into public works projects and drug trafficking.
One of their most infamous activities was the kidnapping of high-profile victims, including celebrities such as John Paul Getty III. They were held captive for five months in the mountains of Calabria before being rescued. Today, ‘Ndrangheta’ is known as the most powerful mafia organization in Italy, surpassing even ‘Cosa Nostra’ of Sicily.
What sets ‘Ndrangheta’ apart from other mafia groups is their ability to rely on traditional loyalties within clans and families while maintaining maximum flexibility to explore new business opportunities in both legal and illegal economies. They also make money from illegal waste trafficking, blackmail, and usury by offering credit to distressed companies before gradually taking control of them.
According to a report by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA), ‘Ndrangheta’ has an established presence as far away as Canada and Australia, with local cells maintaining strong ties to their homeland of Calabria. In May 2008, Italian research group Eurispes estimated that their annual turnover was approximately 44 billion euros or around 3% of Italy’s GDP at the time.
Despite their international reach, authorities have been able to make significant arrests against members of ‘Ndrangheta’. In May 2019, police across Europe arrested over 100 people who were accused of drug and weapons trafficking with their counterparts in Latin America. The network allegedly used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to help move funds for drug deals.