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  • Nicolas Robichaux

Italian Government Fights Mafia with the Help of Other European Nations

Courtesy of CNN

In early May of 2023, several European nations conducted an operation to arrest members of Italy's ‘Ndrangheta Mafia. Authorities describe the event as the largest to occur, as it resulted in the arrest of over 100 individuals affiliated with the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia.

The ‘Ndrangheta Mafia originates in the 1860s with Sicilian outlaws who established a headquarters in Italy’s Aspromonte Mountains. It was not until the early 1900s that the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia would become a frequent issue to local authorities and in the aftermath of World War II the organization expanded greatly outside of Italy. The ‘Ndrangheta Mafia is structured with the Provincia, which is a board of directors, who settle arguments and permit new members. The familiar bounds of the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia are not distinguishable from the criminal relationships established between individual members, making it rigorous for experts to understand leadership and the role of the family's bloodline.

The ‘Ndrangheta Mafia is "the absolute dominant force in the criminal world" of Western Europe. Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA), which investigates Italian mafia crimes, even describes their influence as reaching Canada. The infamous group has achieved national attention for kidnapping celebrities for ransom and drug trafficking cocaine throughout Western and Eastern Europe. As the main supplier of cocaine, ‘Ndrangheta reportedly uses the port of Antwerp to import cocaine from South Africa. In raids over the entire year of 2022, over an alleged 110 tons of cocaine was confiscated. In a joint press conference on January 10th, 2023 in Reggio Calabria, which is a Southern Italy city where the ‘Ndrangheta operates, days after the May raid the Investigative magistrate, Giovanni Bombardieri, expressed that in addition to the illegal drugs, over millions of euros in weaponry had been obtained by authorities. The international operation, supported by The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol)—a center for law enforcement and supported investigations—and Eurojust, now stands as the largest hit involving the Italian poly-criminal syndicate to date, stated that over 2,770 officers were involved on the ground during the action day. This raid is not isolated as national forces across Western Europe have mobilized together to counter the mafia’s criminal acts, not only through force but through legal action.

Legal action against the mafia was made official in a directive by the European Commission on

May 2022 through a Directive that would strengthen the power of local authorities to restrict and manage assets and property from organized crime groups. The goals of this policy are to allocate confiscated criminal properties to the public and distribute the criminal group’s accumulation of wealth. But the primary issue remains with the mafia’s generational wealth, which is vital to a criminal organization’s survival, especially to the oldest and most influential Italian ‘Ndrangheta. For instance, countries are using confiscated buildings from the ‘Ndrangheta to establish hotels creating jobs for the local economy and permitting residents to live there rent-free for ten years.

Yet the Italian family that operates the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia still receives about 72 billion dollars a year from its global smuggling operations making it seem to critics unlikely the European Commission will have an immediate impact.

Despite the ‘Ndrangheta’s extensive resources and influence within Italy, the Italian government is a prominent opponent of the mafia organization. Instead of solely focusing on raid operations that pertain to cocaine, Italian authorities have begun to center their efforts to cease illegal gambling efforts. The Italian authorities broke up a money laundering scheme in the Provincial Command of Reggio Calabria. This operation resulted in a three million Euro loss for the mafia. Simultaneously, the Court of Reggio Calabria took eleven homes, three pieces of territory, and financial assets under Italian law.

In Central and Western Europe, countries have been taking action against the influence of the ‘Ndrangheta. On June 5, 2023, Italy collaborated with Belgium and Germany to arrest 31 members within each nation; these members sustained the international drug trafficking network. Authorities confiscated 3.8 million euros worth of illegal property and drugs.

Yet the Italian government remains hopeful that the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia’s rain of terror and

influence internationally, and domestically, will cease. The initial international step was establishing an INTERPOL initiative in which eighteen other nations have been selected for police cooperation, called INTERPOL Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN). I-CAN was solely funded by the Italian Department of Public Security, which cost EUR 4.5 million, and the operation would range from 2020-2023. As COVID-19 spread, the I-CAN restricted operations causing no arrests in 2021 and holding two international meetings in 2022. In 2023, I-CAN arrested infamous ‘Ndrangheta Mafia member Edgardo Greco, who was wanted for 16 years, and arrested 46 other ‘Ndrangheta Mafia members. With the Italian and international governments cooperating on raids to arrest mafia members and establishing a policy to allocate the mafia’s property, it indicates that preventing the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia’s influence has become an international priority.

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