The Italian Ndrangheta

The study of organised crime in Italy is really the study of four separate organisations.  They are as follows:

The Sicilian Mafia

The Neapolitan Camorra

The Calabrian Ndrangheta

The Apulian Sacra Corona Unita

In this post we’re going to take a look at the Ndrangheta, the mafia-like organisation based in Calabria in Southern Italy.  Calabria is right next door to Sicily and this proximity has led to speculation over the years that the Ndrangheta may just be an offshoot of the Sicilian mafia but this is not the case, they are two independent entities that sometimes work together for mutual benefit.  The FBI has speculated that the Ndrangheta was formed by Sicilians kicked of the island but this doesn’t seem to have proven.  The word ‘Ndrangheta’ is probably derived from a similar Greek word relating to heroism.

The origins of the Ndrangheta are not dissimilar to that of the Sicilian mafia; police records dating back to the late 19th century show that court records were already familiar with the omertá and had experience of written agreements within local groups for self protection.  These rules would lay out guides based on solidarity and secrecy and reprisals for those who did not comply.


Ndrangheta massacre aftermath

For most of the 20th century the activities of the Ndrangheta were restricted to their home region of Calabria, making money mostly via extortion but in the mid-1970s the inter-clan peace was broken when more than 300 people were killed in a ferocious gang war.  This was followed by what is now known as the Second Ndrangheta War which cost the lives of another 600 people between 1985 and 1991.  It began amongst a background of acrimony over the awarding of a bridge building contract between Calabria and Sicily and only ended when, six years later, they had fought each other to a standstill did sense prevail.  Senior Ndrangheta figures unconnected with the conflict oversaw the peace negotiations and the Sicilia Mafia were also involved in as much as they suggested the setting up of a communications body similar to the Sicilian Mafia Commission.

When the violence had died down, the Ndrangheta began to expand their operations abroad, largely through migration.  This ‘keep it in the family’ attitude and unwillingness to recruit non-family means that loyalty  is high on the agenda and police infiltration is very hard.  There are now confirmed Ndrangheta operations in several European countries as well as Australia and North America.

Francesco Maisano

Alleged boss Francesco Maisano under arrest.

Drug smuggling has become their main source of income and it is estimated the worldwide turnover from this and smaller enterprises (prostitution, gun running, extortion) probably exceed £50 billion globally.

Back in Calabria, the units which make up the Ndrangheta are called locale and are usually based around one family and one village or suburb.  This locale will be part of a larger group in the immediate area and marriages between families are relatively common to cement inter-locale bonds.

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