“She can buy anything”: what you need to know about the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta


According to criminologist Anna Sergi of the British University of Essex, the name is of Greek origin, the word “andranghateia” referring to “a group of men of honor” and the word “andrangatho” meaning “to perform a military action “.

The ‘Ndrangheta has only been considered a mafia in Italian law since 2010, but its origins date back at least to the unification of Italy in 1861.

She became known in the 1980s and 1990s through a series of kidnappings. She is suspected in particular of the kidnapping in the 70s in Rome of the grandson of the American oil magnate Jean Paul ..

The color of silver

No one knows exactly what the numbers are, but according to Italian justice, it has at least 20,000 members worldwide.

According to magistrate Roberto di Bella, the ‘Ndrangheta is the criminal organization “with the most ramifications and present on five continents”.

Italian prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who sits in Catanzaro, one of the strongholds of ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, one of Italy’s poorest regions, estimates his annual turnover at 50 billion euros, largely derived from cocaine trafficking.

Stock in trade

The ‘Ndrangheta “deals with international drug trafficking and typical activities of criminal organizations, settling of scores, extortion, illegal trafficking in waste, money laundering,” Roberto di Bella told . .

What sets it apart from other mafia is its family structure, “which makes it very reliable because there is little repentance.”

“The enormous flow of money coming in from drugs allows’ Ndrangheta to buy everything, shops, restaurants, poisoning the economy not only of Italy but of so many other countries in the world” Mr. di Bella adds.

It also thrives in the construction industry, seizes European funds and even undertakes contracts in the midst of a pandemic.

Massacre in Germany

A bloody episode in Germany brought the ‘Ndrangheta to the fore: in August 2007, the bodies of six Italians, aged 16 to 39 and members of one of the two mafia clans of the Calabrian locality of San Luca, were discovered riddled with bullets in two vehicles in front of the Italian restaurant “Da Bruno” in Duisburg.

This massacre was, according to investigators, a “vendetta” after the assassination at the end of 2006 of Maria Strangio, wife of Giovanni Nirta, chief of the rival clan.


Hundreds of alleged Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta members are on trial from this week in a “maxi-trial” which is expected to last more than two years.

In total, 355 defendants – including political leaders, officials, police officers and businessmen -, 900 witnesses and 400 lawyers will be heard in a specially designed enclosure.

Some 58 prosecution witnesses have agreed to break the omerta, the law of silence, to reveal the secrets of the Mancuso clan and its associates.

By its proportions, this trial is only exceeded by the first maxi-trial of 1986-1987 in Palermo against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, at the end of which 338 defendants were convicted. Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were then assassinated by the Mafia.

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