Italy's Cosa Nostra, Ndrangheta, and Camorra Lowered Their Profiles But Expanded Their Respective Reaches

"Very nice people...Just don’t owe them money."

How President Donald Trump  referred to the Mafia.

Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese
Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese recently issued a sharp warning about the Mafia.

The three major Italian Mafias (there are other, minor ones, including in Sicily itself) have lowered their profiles in recent years; at the same time, they have expanded their reach into new sectors and are just as dangerous as ever.

That's what Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese, who was appointed in September, said during a recent hearing of the Italian parliament’s anti-mafia commission. 

“Criminal organisations are ever more sophisticated as they manage to infiltrate important economic sectors in order to clean up illicitly accumulated money,” said Lamorgese. “The mafia continues to weigh heavily on our institutions and economic system.”

The ’Ndrangheta, which emerged in the southern region of Calabria, continues to be Italy’s most powerful mafia organisation. The crime group is made up of networks of hundreds of family gangs, which, over recent decades, have extend their influence to industries in Italy’s richer north and across the world, raking in billions from drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.

A Demoskopia research institute study in 2013 claimed the ’Ndrangheta made more money than Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s put together, with a turnover of €53bn (or 59 billion in US dollars).

The organisation is even more feared and secretive than Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, which fell into a state of flux in November 2017 when boss of bosses Salvatore “Totò” Riina died in prison, where he had spent almost a quarter of a century. Nicknamed “the Beast” because of his cruelty, Riina was an unrepentant criminal who not only assassinated his criminal rivals on an unprecedented scale in the 1980s and 90s, but also targeted the prosecutors, journalists and judges who stood in his way.

Cosa Nostra has reorganised,” Lamorgese added. “It is still a pervasive, dynamic and dangerous organisation, even if reduced by the hard blows inflicted on it by the state, which brought to justice most of its prominent members.”

Meanwhile, the Camorra, which hails from the Campania region, is “less solid” but remains perilously widespread within its territory, managing to establish an “insidious collusion” with public administration.

Mafia groups have infiltrated almost every area of business, including healthcare, renewable energy, waste management and tourism, while maintaining a hand in their more traditional construction sector. Gangs have also penetrated the food chain, seizing control of farms, controlling distribution and counterfeiting food products, including cheese, wine and olive oil.

Their growth beyond Italy also remains strong, especially in Europe and South America. 

One of Italy’s top cocaine dealers, Nicola Assisi, from the ’Ndrangheta, was arrested in Brazil earlier this year after five years on the run. 

Lamorgese reiterated that the fight against the mafia was a government priority as she revealed that almost €3bn (£2.6bn) assets, including businesses, property and furniture, had been either seized or confiscated from the mafia since the beginning of the year. In 2018, mafia assets totalling €9bn were seized or confiscated, up from €5.4bn in 2017.

In 2018, 59 mafia fugitives were arrested, and 45 since January. Meanwhile, 2,090 people were either arrested or reported for mafia association last year, with 1,687 arrested or reported since January.

The mafia also meddles in elections, with 22 people arrested or reported in 2018, and 15 so far this year. Twenty-two local authorities have been dissolved for mafia infiltration since June 2018.

Lamorgese also noted the “alarming phenomenon” of mafia intimidation of local administrators, with 599 cases being reported in 2018 and 336 during the first six months of this year.