Italian Authorities Arrest Dozens in Anti-Mafia Operation in Calabria

Published: 26 January 2023

Tropea Calabria Italy

Some 'Ndrangheta's branches operated in the Calabria's tourist resort Tropea. (Photo: Caterina Policaro, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Italian police detained 56 suspected mafiosi and seized more than 200 million euros (US$217.89 million) in assets during an operation that, according to authorities, broke the spine of the country’s most prominent organized crime structure, the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta.

The seized assets were obtained mainly through the extortion of tourist and construction sectors, the Italian Interior Ministry said Thursday in a statement.

The arrested suspects face various charges, such as mafia association, extortion, illegal possession and trafficking of weapons, fraud, corruption, kidnapping, laundering money from stolen agricultural machines, fraudulent transfer of values, unlawful competition through violence and threat, or trafficking in illicit influences, according to police.

The operation was focused in particular on the activities of the La Rosa ‘ndrina, a branch of the ‘Ndrangheta, active in the southern area of the Tropea tourist resort.

The group allegedly maintained extensive control over the region and established extortion practices to the disadvantage of the local accommodation facilities, as well as public and private construction projects.

La Rosa ‘ndrina, in cooperation with other ‘Ndrangheta branches, maintained a communication and payment chain, through the delivery of so-called “pizzini” – a local Sicilian term for a small piece of paper, intended for the head of ‘Ndrangheta branch in the Vibonese region in Calabria, according to police.

The authorities also uncovered the existence of intermediaries in charge of obtaining accreditations of foreign investments in favor of organized crime, promoting tourist activity through contacts with people close to the Tourism Department of the Calabria Region, and facilitating the allocation of public funds.

The well organized criminal syndicate was also running a complex system of trafficking of vehicles stolen in Italy, intended for buyers abroad, mostly in Malta and Romania, read the statement.

It also said that in some cases, the gang displayed its capacity to “force” the return of stolen cars to “protected” businesspeople, imposing collaboration on the victims of thefts.

Francesco Messina, the State Police’s anti-crime head, emphasized that the operation shattered “a powerful mafia coterie,” and that the “huge sum” of assets recovered “confirms the economic might of a ‘Ndrangheta clan that has now been hit.”

The new blow to the mafia in Italy came after the arrest last week of the alleged “boss of all bosses” of the Sicilian mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who was sentenced to life in prison nearly 20 years ago for multiple savage murders, including the slaying of two prominent prosecutors.