Italy Arrests 100 Suspected ‘Ndrangheta Members
In a series of raids last week, Italian police rounded up over 100 suspects who they believed to be affiliated with the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s largest Mafia group, Italy’s State Police revealed in a statement.
The raids focused on alleged members of the Molè clan, one of the oldest and most powerful of the 150 families who make up ‘Ndrangheta. Hailing from the town of Gioia Tauro in ‘Ndrangheta's heartland of Calabria, the clan has spread their influence into Italian regions of Lombardy and Tuscany and abroad.
The charges include everything from mafia association, to extortion, illegal arms possession, drug trafficking, the production and sale of narcotics, usury, fraudulent bankruptcy, tax fraud and corruption.
According to the State Police, at the center of the investigation was over a ton of cocaine imported from South America and believed to be the property of the Molè clan. According to the Guardian, a 2006 report by the FBI found that 80% of Europe’s cocaine flowed through the port of Gioia Tauro, -- the Molè clan’s hometown.
Arrested in the raid was one local town councillor and several business leaders who are alleged to have colluded with the ‘Ndrangheta.
Italian prosecutor Riccardo Targetti said the Molè clan had forced local businessmen into their service, ANSA reported.
“We arrive at their homes as punctually as registered letters," one mafiosi said in a wiretap.
Targetti also appealed to the public not to collude with the ‘Ndrangheta, which he called “playing with fire,” and warned that they are capable of “taking control” of society.
The raid comes just days after 70 members of the ‘Ndrangheta were convicted in the first portion of the massive trial which has been ongoing against over 300 leading members of the group since the start of 2021, BBC reported.
The trial, which had to be held in a specially designed court room for it’s 355 defendants and thousands of witnesses and attorneys, is modeled off of the famous maxi trials of the 1980s and 90s which broke the back of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
While Cosa Nostra and their Neapolitan counterpart Camorra are far from gone from the Italian underworld, it is ‘Ndrangheta who filled the void left by their decline.
“While those two syndicates, notably the Sicilians, were feeding off the transatlantic heroin trade through operations like the infamous 'French connection', the 'Ndrangheta was only just emerging from its traditional stock-in-trade of kidnappings in the Calabrian highlands,” the ANSA report said.
“It has since become a highly sophisticated global network with a chokehold on the European cocaine trade and control over swathes of its home turf where police fear to tread, Italian officials say.”
As well as being the richest, the 'Ndrangheta is also regarded as the most impenetrable of Italy's Mafia groups, with its close-knit family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian Mafia in its ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into State witnesses, the agency added.
The trial underway in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, is focussed specifically on the Mancuso family and among the defendants is it’s patriarch, 67-year-old Luigi Mancuso, who is known as "the Uncle.”
Those who were convicted in the first round earlier this month are those who executed their right for a speedy trial in exchange for shorter sentences. Though the agreement was that sentences would be cut down by a third, six of the convicted were still sentenced to the maximum 20 years that the prosecution had asked for, while 21 were acquitted, according to BBC.
For the rest of the defendants the trial is expected to stretch for another two years.