The Mammola-Luxembourg Express
Despite the difficulties of investigating in Luxembourg, Italian prosecutors say they have reason to believe the ’Ndrangheta have established a significant presence there.
As with many mafia groups, this happened through chain migration. In the 19th century, Calabrians flocked north to take jobs in the burgeoning steel industry hub of Minett, a region southwest of the capital.
Starting in the 1980s, the ’Ndrangheta began to follow, with one family member settling up north and then sending for others. Some settled in Differdange, the biggest city in the region, which is strategically located near the border between Belgium and France.
Three young Italian girls in front of a market in the Italian quarter of Dudelange, Luxembourg.
Archives de la Ville de Dudelange – Fonds Jean-Pierre Conrardy
Federico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, said this type of chain migration is a key part of the ’Ndrangheta’s success, giving them “a much larger global reach than the other Italian mafias.”
In Luxembourg, the ’Ndrangheta also have the advantage of longevity. Many mafia families have been there for decades, and their members never had criminal records in Italy, according to Lombardo, the prosecutor in Reggio Calabria.
“In Luxembourg, we have detected the active presence of people linked to the ’Ndrangheta who are not easily classified, because the connections date back a long time,” he said.
“At the time there wasn’t yet proper investigative activity [in Calabria], aimed at mapping all the foreign projections of the ’Ndrangheta.”
The anti-mafia investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity said Italian authorities had seen a number of young people from “‘Ndrangheta environments” moving to Luxembourg to open restaurants — “clearly not with pocket money, given how poor Calabria is.”
Rumbo’s lawyer, Giuseppe Calderazzo, said that his client had every right to move to Luxembourg, as an EU citizen.
“Actually, he chose Luxembourg to get away from a land that caused him much suffering due to mere prejudices not backed by evidence,” he added.
Early Italian migrants in Luxembourg.
Archives de la Ville de Dudelange – Fonds Jean-Pierre Conrardy
Mammola Family Matters
In 2014, two young men from Mammola opened a Luxembourg company,
I Bronzi Sarl
, with 12,500 euros of capital. The first thing it did was set up a frozen yogurt shop called Happy Yogo in Differdange’s historic center.
“I Bronzi” means “The Bronzes” in Italian, a reference to two famous Greek statues of bearded young warriors discovered off the Calabrian coast, now displayed in a museum in Reggio Calabria. “Sarl” is a suffix referring to a common type of company in Luxembourg, “Société à responsabilité limitée.”
Happy Yogo, a now defunct frozen yogurt shop set up in the center of Differdange, Luxembourg, by a company that later had ties to high-ranking ’Ndrangheta member Santo Rumbo.
The following year, it closed and the company was declared dormant. The Mammola men were struck off the register in January 2019, and soon Santo Rumbo entered the business, along with two associates from Siderno.
In March 2019, despite still being dormant, I Bronzi opened a nearby sports bar serving Italian food. In a Facebook picture taken shortly after it opened, Rumbo stands between his two associates, grinning as they grip a bottle of champagne. Next to them is an unusual cake depicting, in frosting, a beer being poured out over a barrel topped with the bar’s logo.
One of the men pictured is the 25-year-old nephew of Tito Figliomeni, an associate of Santo Rumbo’s father in the Rumbo-Figliomeni ’ndrina. The second man is known by police intelligence as an active drug trafficker from northern Europe, and was arrested in France in 2006 in possession of amphetamines. He is still running the bar today.
Such small companies are not required to use a chartered accountant, and need only provide an abridged report of profits and losses, so it’s impossible to know the company’s real finances. However, the accounts that OpenLux reporters do have show very little activity for a restaurant.
Rumbo’s lawyer claimed his client was only “a simple employee of the bistro,” never an investor or manager, and therefore couldn’t answer questions about its finances. However, Rumbo is listed in Luxembourg’s business register as a director of the company. (“Your source is wrong,” his lawyer said when asked about Rumbo’s control of the company.)
In this photograph taken shortly after I Bronzi’s sports bar opened, Santo Rumbo stands between two associates from Siderno, cutting into an unusual cake in the form of a bottle of beer being poured over the bar’s logo.
A few months after leaving I Bronzi, in April 2019, one of the two young men from Mammola co-founded another Luxembourg company, SAA Sarl. This company also opened an Italian restaurant, Romeo e Giulietta. Like its namesakes, it died young, after barely more than a year.
One of the co-founders was another character with family ties to the ’Ndrangheta. He is the son of Rodolfo Scali, the capo locale (local head) of the organized crime group for Mammola, and a high-ranking member of the ’Ndrangheta hierarchy.
The pattern is striking: scions of both the Rumbo and Scali families managed companies in Luxembourg established with the help of the same young man from Mammola.
OpenLux also identified yet another group of three young people from Mammola that opened and closed two restaurants in Differdange since 2017. They also founded a restaurant management company with very little capital, at the same address later used to open Romeo e Giulietta.
Opening restaurants and cafes with just a tiny amount of capital and almost no money on the books, then letting them go bankrupt, is typical of the mafia, according to the senior antimafia investigator who tracked Rumbo down. This creates an excuse to open a local bank account and move money in, without allowing a company to get so big it attracts regulation and attention.
OCCRP has uncovered no evidence that any of these Luxembourg businesses engaged in illegal activity.
But one thing is now clear: the Rumbo family had a relationship with Luxembourg dating as far back as 2008. That’s the year in which an associate of the Rumbo ’ndrina — a man who was tried, but later acquitted, of helping Rumbo Sr. launder drug money through a property development — opened a real estate company in Luxembourg.
At the time, the beneficial owners of Luxembourg companies were kept secret, and the man may have assumed his tie to this firm would never be revealed.