In December 2019, an operation targeted the ‘Ndrangheta families in the southern Italian town of Locri in the Calabria region – the rural, mountainous and underdeveloped’ toe ‘of the Italian boot and the heart of the global crime group.
As a result of the attack, Italian police arrested 334 people, including a police colonel and a former MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s party.
Despite intense police attention and frequent arrests, the ‘Ndrangheta – which takes its meaning from the Greek word for’ heroism ‘- has continued to expand its reach.
Notoriously ruthless, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicilian Cosa Nostra and Naples-based Camorra to operate on all continents thanks to the wealth it has amassed as the leading importer and wholesaler of cocaine produced in Latin America and through North America. Africa and the south is smuggled to Europe. Italy.
That trade is worth billions, and previous police operations have shown that the ‘Ndrangheta has established links with Colombian producer cartels, Mexican crime gangs and mafia families in New York and other parts of North America.
In 2016, a suspected ‘Ndrangheta boss, Ernesto Fazzalari (left), was arrested on the run for two decades on the run for a life sentence for murder. A year later, another suspected crime clan boss, Santo Vottari (right), was detained in Calabria after having been on the run for ten years.
The organization’s tight clan-based structure has made it difficult to penetrate, but police have made some in the ways in recent years.
In 2015, 163 people were arrested in a major crackdown on the notorious mafia gang, which by then had become the most powerful crime organization in the country.
In another stab that year, police snatched £ 1.4 billion worth of assets from the ‘Ndrangheta, including more than 1,500 betting shops, 82 online betting sites and nearly 60 companies.
In 2016, one of Italy’s most wanted mob boss, Ernesto Fazzalari, was arrested on the run for two decades on the run for a life sentence for murder.
The ‘Ndrangheta member was imprisoned in an apartment in a remote part of the southern region of Calabria.
On the run since 1996, he was convicted in absentia in 1999 of mafia association, kidnapping, illegal possession of weapons and a double murder in connection with a bloody feud in 1989-91 that killed 32 people in his hometown Taurianova.
His arrest was hailed by the government as a major victory for the state in its fight against the powerful mafia group.
In 2018, another suspected crime clan boss, Santo Vottari, was detained in Calabria after having been on the run for ten years.
He was arrested while hiding behind a hatch of a bunker after going to the ground for a 2007 massacre in Germany.
Vottari was convicted in absentia in 2009 for being one of the heads of a ‘Ndrangheta clan whose feud with local rivals culminated in the Duisburg murders.
He was sentenced to 10 years and 8 months in prison, two years after he fled.
Vottari was one of 31 people sentenced to prison terms in 2009 in connection with the Duisburg murders, which took place after a vendetta between two clans in the same village, San Luca, that got out of hand.
The feud between the Nirta-Strangio and Pelle-Vottari clans reportedly began with an egg-throwing joke in 1991.
Retaliation escalated after the murder, on Christmas Day 2006, of Maria Strangio, the wife of clan leader Giovanni Nirta.
The feud was blamed for at least 16 deaths in total, and the murders in Germany brought it to international attention.
Giovanni Strangio was convicted in 2011 as the mastermind and one of the authors of the Duisburg murders.
He was sentenced to life in prison. Seven others received life sentences linked to the feud at the same trial.
Notoriously ruthless, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed the Cosa Nostra of Sicily and Naples-based Camorra in influence thanks to its control over the European cocaine trade.
The organization is made up of a large number of village and family clans based in the rural, mountainous and underdeveloped ‘toe’ of the Italian boot.
The name ‘Ndrangheta comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty and the secretive culture of the organization and the brutal enforcement of the codes of silence have made it very difficult to penetrate.