Five things to know about the Italian mafia Ndrangheta

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Rome (AFP)

The ‘Ndrangheta, rooted in the southern region of Calabria, overtook Sicily’s most famous Cosa Nostra to become Italy’s most powerful mafia group, operating around the world.

Here are five things to know about the organized crime group, as more than 350 suspected members and their associates are on trial this week.

– Origins –

Criminologist Anna Sergi, from the University of Essex in England, says the group’s name is of Greek origin – the word “andranghateia” refers to a “society of men of honor” and “andrangatho” means “To carry out military actions”.

The group has only been classified as a mafia under Italian law since 2010, but it dates back at least to the unification of Italy in 1861.

It went public in the 1980s and 1990s in a series of kidnappings across Italy, and affiliates are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of the grandson of oil magnate John Paul Getty.

– Main activities –

Judge Roberto Di Bella, who has nearly 30 years of experience in the methods of the Calabrian mob, describes the ‘Ndrangheta as “perhaps the most powerful criminal organization in the world, but certainly the most widespread and present in the world. the five continents ”.

Its activities include those typical of organized criminal groups – drug trafficking, extortion, illegal waste trafficking and money laundering.

But what sets the ‘Ndrangheta apart from other mafia groups is its family structure – it is based on blood ties, which makes it “very reliable because there are few jackets,” Di Bella told AFP.

This is one of the reasons why Colombian or Mexican drug producers used “Ndrangheta” to sell in Europe.

“The enormous flow of money that comes from drugs allows’ Ndrangheta to buy everything – businesses, restaurants – to pollute the economy not only of Italy but of many other countries of the world,” he said. he declares.

– How much is it worth? –

Italian authorities estimate that there are around 20,000 members of the Ndrangheta in the world, but its true composition and wealth are difficult to establish.

Nicola Gratteri, a leading prosecutor in Calabria, estimates that the group generates an annual turnover of more than 50 billion euros ($ 61 billion) – largely thanks to the trafficking of cocaine.

– German massacre –

While generally operating under the radar, the activities of the ‘Ndrangheta came to light in a massacre outside a pizzeria in the German town of Duisburg in 2007.

Six rival members of the clan have been killed in a long-standing feud between families in the town of San Luca, Calabria. Sixteen people have been killed in fighting between families in the stronghold of Ndrangheta since the 1990s.

– Pig fed –

The ‘Ndrangheta is “feared for its ferocity and cruelty,” according to Gratteri, who has lived under police protection for three decades.

Stories of violence perpetrated by members abound, but one particularly gruesome story emerged days before this week’s trial.

Maria Chindamo, a 42-year-old businesswoman from Calabria, was reportedly murdered and her body fed to pigs in 2016 after refusing to hand over her land to a neighbor linked to the group.

The ‘Ndrangheta, along with other mafia groups, have also been blamed for the deaths of dozens of children since the 1950s.

Among them, Nicola “Coco” Campolongo, three, who was shot in the head in 2014 by armed men targeting her grandfather.

That same year, during a visit to Calabria, Pope Francis called on Catholics to fight the ‘Ndrangheta, declaring the group “excommunicated”.

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