Encounters with the Calabrian Mafia: the 'Ndrangheta

Photo Gallery: Italy's Shadowy 'Ndrangheta
This is for readers who have had enough of "Mob Wives."

Here's an interesting piece called Encounters with the Calabrian Mafia: Inside the World of the 'Ndrangheta in SPIEGEL ONLINE. We learn some interesting factoids about the Calabrian Mafia versus the American Mafia. For instance, in Calabrian Mafia circles, a distinction is made between "illuminati" ("enlightened ones") and "manovali" ("henchmen"). The illuminati wear a diamond set in a gold ring -- a sign of high rank.

Here's the beginning of an interview; if it interests you enough, click the hyperlink.

"For the meeting with  SPIEGEL, Carlo has suggested a café in a town outside Munich. He is sitting in the shade of tall trees, a fit man in his late 50s, with alert eyes and a shaved head. He explains why men like him never go to prison, even though they bring cocaine to Germany by the ton.

"Momentarily blinded by the late afternoon sun, he stops speaking in mid-sentence, blinks, moves his chair to the side and shakes his right hand, as if he were trying to shoo the sun away like a fly. A diamond set in a gold ring flashes for a moment, and then Carlo continues where he left off: "I am an 'illuminato,'" he says, speaking German with an Italian accent. In mafia circles, a distinction is made between "illuminati" ("enlightened ones") and "manovali" ("henchmen"). The diamond is a sign of Carlo's high rank.

"Sources in southern Italy had said that Carlo was in charge of the cocaine trade in Germany. On this afternoon, he leaves no doubt that this is the case. "In the summer or around New Year's, when there is the greatest demand, we bring in a ton of cocaine every few days," says Carlo. Although he is constantly aware of what is happening in the drug scene, he adds, he never touches the stuff himself, preferring to let others get their fingers dirty. This reflects the division of labor between the illuminati and the henchmen.

"Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has long had its sights set on the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia. The 'Ndrangheta was responsible for almost all of the attention-grabbing mafia crimes committed on German soil in recent years.

"Giorgio Basile, who grew up in the western German city of Mülheim an der Ruhr and was involved in about 30 murders until his arrest in 1998, was a member of the 'Ndrangheta. The group of gunmen who killed six people at a pizzeria in nearby Duisburg in 2007 came from southern Italy. And the seven mafiosi who police arrested in the western German states of Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia in early 2011 were members of a syndicate that experts believe is the world's most important cocaine cartel. According to an internal BKA report, Germany is a key hub in the European cocaine trade as a "transit and organization country."

"Setting up a meeting with an active member of the 'Ndrangheta is a difficult process. It requires having the right contacts, someone to establish the initial connection, and a lot of time and patience. It also helps to have grown up in Calabria.

"Francesco Sbano, 48, was born in Paola, a small city in Calabria on the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he played soccer with the children of the 'Ndrangheta as a boy. He studied communications and photography, and he has taken an artistic approach to the fate of his native region, upon which the 'Ndrangheta has imprinted its bloody stamp.

"Little by little, Sbano slowly approached the syndicate. He created portraits of remote Calabrian villages and produced the music of the 'Ndrangheta. Sbano knows the people in the syndicate, and they know him.

"During several preliminary discussions, the 'Ndrangheta weighed the risk it would take by being in contact with the media. Sbano believes that the reason that members of the 'Ndrangheta are now willing to speak out is that they feel very strong. "They want to cultivate the myth of invincibility," he says.

"Nevertheless, Carlo, the enlightened one, decided not to show up for the first arranged meeting in Germany. He wanted to check with people in Calabria first. The second time, he rescheduled the meeting several times. When he finally appeared at the café outside Munich, the first thing he asked for was a letter of recommendation, written in Italian. He read it carefully. And he said that he could "provide information," as long it wouldn't jeopardize business."

Read the full article: Encounters with the Calabrian Mafia: Inside the World of the 'Ndrangheta - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International