Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts

Brazilian police on Sept. 18 arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy's 'Ndrangheta crime network. Andre de Oliveira Macedo AKA "Andre do Rap," detained in Sao Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy's southern region of Calabria. (Gazzetta del Sud, Calabria, Sept. 18) In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo state, who were also said to be 'Ndrangheta operatives. Nicola Assisi and his son were held in an undisclosed location to await extradition to Italy. A month earlier, accused top 'Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay—angering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (The Local, Italy, July 9)

The 'Ndrangheta is now thought to traffic much of Europe's cocaine trade through Calabria, using Bitcoin to launder payments. Last December, 90 supposed operatives of the network were arrested in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Colombia. Italy's press warned of the emergence of a "global 'Ndrangheta." (Gazzetta del Sud, Dec. 5, 2018)

Italy targets 'Ndrangheta in mass trial

One of Italy's largest-ever mafia trials kicked off this week, with more than 320 suspected mobsters and their associates facing an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and theft. The case targets the 'Ndrangheta, based in Calabria and considered the most powerful crime group in the country, easily eclipsing the more famous Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

The trial is being held in a converted call-center in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, with defendants placed in metal cages and rows of desks set up for the hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors, journalists and spectators expected to attend. Many of the accused are white-collar workers, including lawyers, accountants, businessmen, local politicians and police officers. The state will call on 913 witnesses and draw on 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations to support the myriad charges. 

The last time Italy tried hundreds of alleged mafiosi simultaneously was in 1986 in Palermo in a case that represented a turning point in the fight against the Cosa Nostra. That trial had a huge impact because it targeted numerous mob families.

The Calabrian trial, in contrast, focuses primarily on one group—the Mancuso clan from the province of Vibo Valentia—leaving much of the 'Ndrangheta's top hierarchy untouched. (CNN)

Calabrian crime boss popped in Brazil

Italian prosecutors on May 26 cheered the capture in Brazil of a leading fugitive crime boss. Rocco Morabito, number two on Italy's most dangerous fugitives list, was arrested the previous day in northeast Brazil. His capture in the city of Joao Pessoa, Paraíba, came almost two years after his escape from a prison in Uruguay, where he was awaiting extradition to Italy. Dubbed the "king of cocaine," he has been wanted since 1994 by Italian authorities. Morabito is "one of the most important brokers in narco-trafficking," said Giovanni Bombardieri, chief prosecutor in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. (AFP, EuroNews)

Meanwhile, police in Kosovo seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine in an international operation with Italian authorities. The drugs were first found by scanners in the port of Gioia Tauro, Calabria, in a container from Brazil. The shipment was then intercepted on the way to its final destination to a company in the town of Lipjan, Kosovo. (AFP)

Bloody Cosa Nostra boss released from prison

Former Italian mob boss turned informant Giovanni Brusca was released from Rebibbia prison in Rome May 31.

Brusca, a high-profile leader of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, was arrested in 1996 after having long eluded Italian law enforcement. Brusca was the "right-hand man of the so-called super boss Totò Riina, who died in prison in 2017." Brusca is held responsible for setting off a bomb in 1992 that killed Italian judge Giovanni Falcone, who was known for his dedication to uprooting the mafia. Falcone’s wife and three guards were also killed in the 1992 bombing, which occurred on a road from the airport outside Palermo that led to his home. “The attack, followed two months later by the killing of … Falcone’s colleague Paolo Borsellino, rocked Italy and resulted in tough new anti-Mafia laws.”

Brusca is the last member of the group convicted in the 1992 bombing to be released from prison. Other convicted participants, including Gioacchino La Barbera and Santino Di Matteo, "almost immediately" chose to cooperate with the government and were freed. In revenge for his confession, mobsters kidnapped Di Matteo’s 12-year old son Giuseppe, held him for two years, and then under Brusca’s order killed him and dissolved his body in acid.

Brusca was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing over 100 people. His sentence was reduced to 30 years when he agreed to cooperate with the government. Additionally, under Italian sentencing guidelines, prisoners are entitled to a reduction of 45 days for every six months spent in prison. The sentence reduction enabled Brusca to be released on after serving 25 years. Brusca will now be on probation for four years. (Jurist)

Italy court convicts 70 in mass 'Ndrangheta trial

An Italian court in Lamezia Terme, Calabria, convicted and sentenced 70 members of the ‘Ndrangheta crime group on charges relating to attempted murder and extortion.

The 'Ndrangheta is one of the largest and most powerful organized crime groups in Italy, composed of more than 150 families. The current trial focused specifically on the Mancuso family. In December 2019, some 2,500 police officers carried out raids across the region in a massive operation.

The defendants in the case ranged from businessmen to politicians. Over the next two years, 355 alleged members will face trial for their involvement in the network. The ongoing trial began in January 2021, with anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri leading the government's case. Due to his efforts against the group, Gratteri has been forced to live under police escort for the past 30 years.

The maximum sentence of 20 years was handed down to some of the most dangerous and notorious members of the organization, including Domenico Macri of the group's military wing and Pasquale Gallone, right-hand man of the organization's alleged boss Luigi Mancuso. Around 20 individuals received 10 year sentences. In addition to the 70 convicted, 21 more were acquitted. Some of the individuals were acquitted at the request of the prosecutors.

The 'Ndrangheta rose to power after Sicily's Costa Nostra mafia was taken down in a similar trial involving 460 members in 1987. Shortly after the convictions, anti-mafia prosecutors Giovani Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were assassinated by its members. When the Sicilian mafia was defeated, the 'Ndrangheta began to corner the cocaine market, and today is said to net some $72 billion from their global business and profits from their "cosche" (clan) operations. (Jurist, EuroNews)

Mafia boss arrested but prosecutors warn fight is not over

After 30 years of evading justice, Italy's most-wanted accused Mafia boss Messina Denaro was arrested in Palermo following lengthy surveillance operation. The 60-year-old had been convicted in absentia of masterminding dozens of murders, including those of two anti-mafia prosecutors. But Italian prosecutors are warning that the fight against organized crime is far from over. (EuroNews)

Italy claims new blow against 'Ndrangheta

Italian police on Jan. 25 arrested 56 people throughout the country for links with the "Mancuso clan" of the notorious 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, seizing around €250 million worth in assets. The suspects face charges including extortion, kidnapping, arms trafficking, corruption and fraud. 

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso AKA "The Supreme" is currently on trial. But authorities say his clan and affiliates, including the Accortini and La Rosa families, have continued to dominate activity in Vibo Valentia province on the toe of Italy's boot, known as the "Coast of the Gods" for stunning coastal views. Many of the arrests took place in Vibo Valentia. (AFP, EuroNews, Calabria7)