Video Offers Rare View of Ndrangheta's "Bizarre Rituals"

The Calabrian Ndrangheta held a small gathering in the Swiss town of Frauenfeld, outside Zurich.

The event was filmed by Swiss and Italian police as part of a two-year investigation.

Germany’s Der Spiegel was the latest to publish the video – released by Italian investigators – following the arrest last Friday of at least 16 Ndrangheta suspects by Italian and Swiss police. It marked the culmination of Operation Helvetia, launched in 2012.

The video [seen on the jump page] offers a rare insight into the secret world of the Calabrian Mafia and its bizarre rituals.

Antonio Nesci has been identified as the Mafia boss shown in the film. He is nicknamed “the Swiss Mountain”. Speaking Italian, he informs his new recruits that the ’Ndrangheta’s code of conduct dates back to the 1830s. “Just as knights were baptised with iron and chains, so I baptise you with iron and chains,” he tells them.

Swiss police have described Nesci’s gang as a group of “heavyweight operators” who are deeply involved in hard drugs and weapons dealing. Nesci, who was among those arrested last week, is said to answer directly  to the jailed ’Ndrangheta leader and so-called “boss of bosses”, Domenico Oppedisano.

Oppedisano, 83, was arrested with 300 other Mafia suspects in Italy in 2010. Police found the evidence to convict him after bugging the trees in his Calabrian orange grove. He is currently serving a 13-year sentence.

Reported the Telegraph: "Nesci... is heard telling his colleagues the local cell has been active in the Frauenfeld for 40 years, before telling the younger members there is room for plenty of growth.

“You can work in everything – extortion, cocaine, heroin,” he said. “There’s everything. 10 kilos, 20 kilos a day, I will bring it to you personally but I don’t want to know any more about it.” In a chilling reminder of the Mafia’s uncompromising violence, the boss says decisions about “murders and extortion” must be referred to those who are specifically designated to carry out those tasks. Nesci says the organisation has been established in the Swiss town since the 1970s and urges the younger ones to respect the “clean” reputation that the Mafia, sometimes referred to as the “Honoured Society”, has built in Frauenfeld, a town of only 23,000 inhabitants.

“For those who know us well, (we are) clean, clean, clean, it took us years to build this reputation,” he says. “We made our reputation. You young ones (should) do it so that the 'society’ is respected. I repeat again, the 'society’ of Frauenfeld is one of honour, wisdom and dignity.” 

Just days after a European Union-backed study claimed Italy’s major mafia groups were expanding in Aberdeen and London, police arrested 16 people in Switzerland and two in Italy, including Nesci, after the lengthy joint investigation named Operation Helvetia, which began in January 2012.

Italian anti-mafia prosecutors argue that it took the brutal execution of six Italians in a mafia feud outside a restaurant in the city of Duisburg in 2007 for German law enforcement authorities to realise the expansion of the Calabrian ’Ndrangeta, and they believe more should be done to stop its spread in Europe. 

In the video viewers may also be surprised to see the signs of the Mafia’s strict standards of loyalty. Nesci asks those gathered if all are “compliant” to the organisation, to which they respond they are. 

He refers to the ’Ndrangheta’s regulations dating back to 1830 and also draws inspiration from three knights as he blesses the room and the members, saying: “As they were baptised with irons and chains, with irons and chains I baptise you.” 

According to police the Swiss cell was linked to two clans based in the “toe” of Italy: the Fabrizia clan of Vibo Valentia, and the Mazzaferro clan from the town of Marina di Gioiosa Ionica. 

The Swiss cell, like the two clans, was directly answerable to the organisation’s ruling hierarchy in Calabria. 

Police allege Nesci reported to the head of the Fabrizia clan, Giuseppe Antonio Primerano, and had obtained his authorisation to extend the clan’s operations in Singen in southern Germany. Primerano - convicted to 13 years in prison in July 2013 - was also said to be directly linked to Domenico Oppedisano, the 83-year-old head of the Calabrian mafia. 

The equivalent of the "boss of bosses" in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Oppedisano had been serving as so-called "Capocrimine" - leader - of the organisation for a year when he was arrested, police said at the time. Oppedisano was reportedly appointed head of 'Ndrangheta, now Italy's most powerful mafia, at a wedding on August 19, 2009, and assumed his powers at a feast at a shrine to the Madonna on September 1. 

He was arrested with 300 others by police in a major swoop called Operation Crimine in 2010, and is now is serving a 13-year sentence for Mafia association.


  1. Anybody recommend any books on the current state of OC in Italy?

  2. What was so 'bizarre' about that? Also I'd like to point out that the Capocrimine is nothing like a 'boss of bosses' but rather someone elected to chair the annual meeting of the Ndrangheta. The Capocrimine has very little authority.

  3. Thank you! You are
    right the R.J. should know better.
    Siegel didn't 'invent' Las Vegas.
    The facts bear that out, but lazy journalist as well as lazy historians
    just read a couple of secondary sources and repeat the same visionary
    crap. The war continues. BUT, let’s not start another myth. God bless Billy, but Wilkerson didn't
    'invent' Las Vegas either. Hollywood had long discovered Las Vegas, and with
    the end of World War II, there was a long line of well-known people(from
    Sinatra, to the Andrew Sisters, to Roy Rogers, to Jack Dempsey) that were going to build ‘luxurious’ resorts along what would become the strip. Plus there were already a half a dozen upscale nightclubs, not including the Hotel El Rancho, and the Hotel Last Frontier when Wilkerson ‘discovered’ U.S. Highway 91. You got the names right, Hull, Moore, Griffith. (although Hull left the El Rancho a couple of years after he built it, and Griffith, he died not too longafter he opened the Last Frontier, and Brooks, at first he picked the wrong end of U.S. 91-the north end at Bonanza and Main to build his Biltmore, so that leaves us for right now Moore who stays on the list, year the top of Las Vegas ‘visionaries.’ Lets not forget Clark, Dalitz. It was Moe who told Wilbur, whom he liked, that his idea for the D.I. was a little to 'western' and it needed to be more modern. lots of folks on that list of 'inventing' Las Vegas. how about starting a real fact based top ten list of who invented Las Vegas and then lazy writers would at least have something useful to copy. putting on another pot of coffee. thanks.

  4. The Telegraph and other newspapers are totally wrong about Oppedisano, he had little or no authority in the Calabrian Mafia so that is why he was made Capo Crimine at their annual meeting, his appointment would not ruffle any feathers. Its a purely ceremonial role.

  5. I guess the whole baptism with iron and chains? Don't know, I put it in quotes because that's the wording from original story....


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