In this post, we begin to get some background on this organized crime group, and identify why it may be of interest to this blog.
From Mafia drugs submarine seized, March 28, 2006:
Mafia drug traffickers were building a submarine to bring cocaine from Colombia to Italy, Italy’s anti-Mafia chief said Monday.
Speaking after on his return from the South American country, national anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said the Calabrian mafia, known as the 'Nrangheta, was dealing in such huge amounts of drugs that it could afford to have such an expensive mode of transport built.
He said they had chosen a submarine in order to beat coastal radar systems which detect incoming ships.
"The 'Ndrangheta brings in 400 kilos of cocaine a year," Grasso said in an interview on Italian TV.
"The submarine, which was under construction in Colombia, has been impounded."
"They were going to use the sub to elude radar controls."
Grasso said cocaine costs just 3 dollars a gramme in Colombia and had a street value of 50-100 euros per gramme in Italy, depending on the quality. He said Italian and Colombian police were trying to stop the trade in every way, including destroying crops, but efforts needed to be made to stem demand.
The price differential between Colombia and Italy is more than adequate economic justification to smuggle cocaine to Europe and sell it there. In fact, the price differential justifies expensive and innovative measures, such as the construction of a submarine!
It's all based on the law of supply and demand....
"We have to ask ourselves why demand keeps on rising."
Action was needed, he said, to stop people turning to cocaine to make themselves more efficient and productive. Most experts agree the 'Ndrangheta, which specialises in drug smuggling from South America, is now more powerful and more dangerous than Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia.
The Calabrian mob is believed to generate an annual turnover of some 35 billion euros, more than Calabria's entire legal economy.
And the demand in Europe for drugs from South America is quite substantial.
In the wake of high-publicity crimes in 2005, Italian authorities went after the 'Ndrangheta, gaining some successes in 2006:
The Italian government launched an unprecedented campaign against the 'Ndrangheta in the wake of the October 16 murder of top local politician Francesco Fortugno. It bolstered police and prosecution forces in Calabria and appointed a top police officer to lead the murder hunt and try to wrest swathes of the region from the mafia's grip.
The operation led to a series of successes and finally, last week, the arrest of Fortugno's killers.
Police are now using turncoat testimony to try to find out who ordered the murder. Meanwhile the drive to re-establish full state rule continues. Since 1995, 30 town councils have been dissolved because they were deemed to be controlled by the 'Ndrangheta. Last year, dozens of local administrators received threats.
This cocaine trafficking is only the beginning.
From a more recent article entitled From cocaine to plutonium: mafia clan accused of trafficking nuclear waste, by Tom Kington in Rome, Tuesday, October 9, 2007:
Authorities in Italy are investigating a mafia clan accused of trafficking nuclear waste and trying to make plutonium.
The 'Ndrangheta mafia, which gained notoriety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Germany, is alleged to have made illegal shipments of radioactive waste to Somalia, as well as seeking the "clandestine production" of other nuclear material.
Two of the Calabrian clan's members are being investigated, along with eight former employees of the state energy research agency Enea.
The eight are suspected of paying the mobsters to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time they were based at the agency's centre at Rotondella, a town in Basilicata province in the toe of Italy, which today treats "special" and "hazardous" waste. At other centres, Enea studies nuclear fusion and fission technologies.
The 'Ndrangheta has been accused by investigators of building on its origins as a kidnapping gang to become Europe's top cocaine importer, thanks to ties to Colombian cartels. But the nuclear accusation, if true, would take it into another league.
Running cocaine and women is one thing, but nuclear waste... now there's a market with potential!
An Enea official who declined to be named denied the accusation, saying: "Enea has always worked within the rules and under strict national and international supervision."
A magistrate, Francesco Basentini, in the city of Potenza began the investigation following others by magistrates and the leaking to the press of the police confession of an 'Ndrangheta turncoat, detailing his role in the alleged waste-dumping.
An Enea manager is said to have paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, the turncoat claimed, with Somalia as the destination lined up by the traffickers.
But with only room for 500 drums on a ship waiting at the northern port of Livorno, 100 drums were secretly buried somewhere in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Clan members avoided burying the waste in neighbouring Calabria, said the turncoat, because of their "love for their home region", and because they already had too many kidnap victims hidden in grottoes there.
Love for their home region, and too many kidnap victims... nice.
Investigators have yet to locate the radioactive drums allegedly buried in Basilicata - although, in a parallel investigation, police are searching for drums of non-radioactive toxic waste they believe were dumped by the 'Ndrangheta near the Unesco town of Matera in Basilicata, famous for its ancient houses dug into the rock, the Ansa news agency reported yesterday.
Shipments to Somalia, where the waste was buried after buying off local politicians, continued into the 1990s, while the mob also became adept at blowing up shiploads of waste, including radioactive hospital waste, and sending them to the sea bed off the Calabrian coast, the turncoat told investigators. Although he made no mention of attempted plutonium production, Il Giornale newspaper wrote that the mobsters may have planned to sell it to foreign governments.
"The 'Ndrangheta has no morals and, if there is money in an activity, it will have no problem getting involved, even nuclear waste," said Nicola Gratteri, the anti-mafia magistrate investigating the shooting in Germany in August of six Italians - the most recent episode of a blood feud between clans in the Calabrian village of San Luca, which cast the spotlight on the 'Ndrangheta's global trafficking and drug-dealing business worth up £25bn, a year. According to the turncoat, the plan to enter the radioactive waste business also started in San Luca, hatched by its then boss, Giuseppe Nirta.
The nuclear waste is an ingredient for a dirty bomb.
If a dirty bomb goes off in Italy (or even elsewhere), do these guys think their home region of Calabria will magically escape contamination?
Mr Gratteri warned that Europe's police forces were "unequipped" to take on the mafia, whether the 'Ndrangheta, Naples' Camorra, or Sicily's Cosa Nostra. "The mafias were the first to take advantage of Europe's disappearing frontiers, but when I go to Germany I see they have not introduced the crime of mafia association and do not allow wire taps in public places. I'm tired of round tables and conventions; what we need is more courage."
Italian police are holding 33 San Luca locals suspected of being in the blood feud, with court hearings approaching, said Mr Gratteri. "We get more cooperation from Colombia in our enquiries than some European countries," he said. "The 'Ndrangheta is not just a Calabrian product that every so often makes an appearance somewhere. The problem needs to be of interest to Europe," he urged.
You think organized crime takes advantage of disappearing frontiers? What 'til you see what nuclear contamination does, guys.
Europe's elite need to wake up and smell what's cooking.
From Bulgaria Linked to Most Powerful Italian Mafia 'Ndrangheta, 17 August 2007, Friday:
The Italian 'Ndrangheta crime circle works in cooperation with Bulgarian organized crime groups, a report of the Italian anti-mafia directorate states, as cited by Giornale di Calabria newspaper.
The report warns of the 'Ndrangheta's constantly growing power and its links with Bulgarian crime bosses, who are backed by the even more powerful Russian mafia.
The report comes just two days after six Italians were shot dead near a train station in Duisburg, western Germany. All of them are believed to be members of the 'Ndrangheta crime group based in Calabria. Police believe the motive for the killings is the result of a feud stemming from the Italian town of San Luca.
Ever more often Italian mafia bosses go to court together with Bulgarians and this is just one of the many examples that prove the links between Bulgaria and the Calabrian mafia, the report says.
'Ndrangheta acts more openly, creates relations with other crime circles around the world, especially in Columbia, expands its activities on the whole territory of Italy and is not afraid to demonstrate arrogance as its members feel they have enough power and superiority.
The Calabrian mafia deals with international traffic of drugs, mainly cocaine, and women.
'Ndrangheta has already created a network of relations with Bulgarian, Albanian and Turkish crime circles, reads the article.
So, let's review what we have learned:
The 'Ndrangheta is involved in cocaine trafficking that is so lucrative, its annual turnover is 35-40 billion Euros, more than the entire legal economy of its home region of Calabria, and 3.5% of the GDP of Italy.
The 'Ndrangheta has been involved with the illegal transportation and disposal of nuclear contaminants, and is believed to have tried to sell them to foreign governments.
The 'Ndrangheta is also involved in human trafficking, smuggling women as sex slaves.
And, the 'Ndrangheta is connected not just with Colombian organized crime, but with Bulgarian, Russian, Albanian and Turkish organized crime groups, as well.
All of this ties in exactly to what we have been examining in our reviews of Makarenko's papers, in our look at the Sibel Edmonds case, and in our study of Islamic terrorists.
We are seeing the rise of transnational organized crime conglomerates, "metagroups" which rival nation-states for power, and which even change the course of history.
'Ndrangheta, which puts two-thirds of its income into legitimate businesses, and so exists in The Shadow Realm, is innovative, building its own submarines and smuggling nuclear waste -- they have passed the Sicilian Mafia, the Cosa Nostra, in importance, and are redefining what it means to be a major league player in the arena of international organized crime.