Italian Businessman Arrested for Laundering Ndrangheta Money

Published: 01 July 2022

Italy Police PoliziaItalian businessman arrested for laundering money on behalf of Calabria-based mafia organization 'Ndrangheta. (Photo: Ulrike Leone, Pixabay, License)

By Inci Sayki

In a coordinated cross-border effort by Italian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Swiss authorities, police arrested an Italian businessman suspected of laundering money for the Italian ‘Ndrangheta mafia and seized assets worth over four million euros (US$4.2 million).

The Antimafia Public Prosecutor’s Office of Bologna determined Alberto Danele Pizzichemi, 52, to be closely connected to the ‘Ndrangheta, according to local media.

Among the proxies the Italian businessman resorted to fraudulently move millions of euros on behalf of Italy’s largest mafia clan were allegedly two electric power plants in Romania worth two million euros ($2.1 million), Swiss bank transfers, luxury real estate in Bulgaria, and investments worth 15 million euros ($15.72 million) in U.S. securities transferred between foreign companies.

Known for their skillful money laundering schemes, the ‘Ndrangheta uses complex ownership structures and proxies, and takes advantage of financial secrecy laws to hide the origins of their wealth.

It is estimated that they bring in a turnover of $60 billion annually, sourced mostly from their criminal activities such as fraud, extortion, high-level corruption, and the trafficking of drugs, humans, and arms.

Pizzichemi had previously been arrested in 2018 when his assets were the subject of an antimafia preventative freezing order. He was convicted in 2020 in Italy to nine years of imprisonment for “acting as an intermediary of the ‘Ndrangheta to invest their illicit assets in lucrative businesses, especially abroad,” according to Eurojust.

His main accomplices were his financial consultant, and other businessmen acting as frontmen.

Monday’s operation was launched at Eurojust by Italian authorities in April, allowing assistance with the execution of European Investigation Orders and to freeze the suspect’s assets in Bulgaria and Romania.

As a result of the operation, shares and corporate assets of an Italian company, balances in a Swiss and a Romanian bank account, company shares of two Romanian companies, two properties in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, and three other bank accounts were seized.

A February 2022 OCCRP investigation into the Credit Suisse leaks similarly exposed another Italian entrepreneur who had at least six accounts in the Swiss bank and was also charged with laundering money for the ‘Ndrangheta.