Monday, September 15, 2014

Organised crime in Italy: "I am an 'illuminato'"

via Spiegel:

The shadowy Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta, has become one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the Western world through its dominance of the European cocaine trade. For the first time, local syndicate bosses described their business model to SPIEGEL. It's a mixture of entrepreneurial talent, skillful management and deadly ruthlessness...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...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...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...According to an internal BKA report, Germany is a key hub in the European cocaine trade as a "transit and organization country."..He is wearing a black shirt, black trousers and black loafers -- elegant Italian products, all made of high-quality materials. He was baptized at 18, he says.

He is referring to the secret ritual in which he was accepted into the "onorata società," or "honored society," as the 'Ndrangheta calls itself.
His uncle brought him into the organization. This is often the case in such organizations, where cohesion is based on kinship and there are few traitors as a result.

In Italy, such turncoats are known as "pentiti," or "the repentant ones." They are mafia members who, after being arrested, break the "omertà," or vow of silence, and tell all. They become key witnesses for the prosecution. According to statistics compiled by the Italian judiciary, until 2008 there were about 1,000 pentiti affiliated with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, 2,000 with the Camorra in Naples -- but only 42 with the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta. Members of the 'Ndrangheta, known as 'Ndranghetisti, do not taint the blood of their families through betrayal.

..."Our customers in Germany are mostly pimps and a large biker gang," says Carlo. "We deliver in units of 50 to 70 kilograms (110 to 154 pounds), often to brothels." He says that he doesn't know what happens to the cocaine there. The 'Ndrangheta are careful not to take risks by committing ordinary crimes. "We don't deal drugs on German streets,"...The BKA report states that the Calabrian mafia has developed "deep-seated structures" in Germany, complete with "leaders from individual clans, as well as killers."...The experts with Germany's BKA have studied the current structure of the 'Ndrangheta. According to the BKA report, the syndicate is "no longer structured horizontally in individual family clans, but, like the Cosa Nostra, in the form of a pyramid."...To this day, strategic alliances are formed between families in the 'Ndrangheta through marriage..."We want to go to the source of government contracts and subsidies, politics," says Carlo.

Getting into Politics

A case that was uncovered in 2010 shows how the 'Ndrangheta is doing this. Italians who live in Germany have the right to vote in Italy. This prompted the Farao clan to send some of its members to Baden-Württemberg in 2008 with suitcases full of cash, which they used to buy their fellow Italians' votes in a parliamentary election.

This is how Nicola Di Girolamo, 51, a member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL), is believed to have gained his seat in the Senate in Rome. He was arrested in early 2010 on charges of having helped the 'Ndrangheta to launder about €2 billion through Italian telephone companies, with the help of straw men...

related, via The Economist. Ndrangheta is the same organization that the ITCCS has accused of supplying children for human hunting parties attended by royalty:

FROM modest beginnings as the local mafia of Calabria, at the toe of the Italian boot, the ’Ndrangheta has spread far and wide. It has penetrated Italy’s financial and industrial heartlands, Lombardy and Piedmont, more than any other organised-crime group. It has a dominant position in the transatlantic cocaine trade, building on alliances with Colombian and then Mexican mobsters. One study put its turnover in 2013 at over €50 billion ($69 billion).

But who controls the ’Ndrangheta? The question is central to one of Italy’s longest-running mafia trials, which is expected to end shortly after almost three years. The trial arose from an investigation code-named “Operation Goal” that led in 2010 to more than 40 arrests. Among the accused are members of the most notorious families in Reggio di Calabria...The earliest hint of a hidden ’Ndrangheta emerged in 2007, during an investigation overseen by Mr Lombardo into how the group tried to profit from the construction of a new motorway. Eavesdropping on a trade unionist, Sebastiano Altomonte, police heard him describe his contacts with ’Ndrangheta leaders and explain to his wife that they were split between “the visible and the invisible, which was born a couple of years ago”. He was among the “invisibles”, he said. It was previously believed that a co-ordinating body, the Provincia, was the ’Ndrangheta’s high command; it also has an assembly called the Crimine (“Crime”), believed to meet once a year during the pilgrimage to a sanctuary in the Aspromonte uplands.

As the judges who convicted Mr Altomonte and others noted, his remarks open up “an entirely new scenario” in which there exists a separate (and perhaps higher) level of ’Ndrangheta leadership previously unknown to investigators. The police began a painstaking process of revisiting old cases and reinterrogating state witnesses (known as pentiti). Some pentiti acknowledged the existence of a hidden level; others did not. But, says Mr Lombardo, that was to be expected: according to Mr Altomonte, even some bosses are unaware of the ’Ndrangheta’s invisible arm.

Not all the evidence in support of his view has been presented in court; what has been is tenuous yet intriguing. One pentito described a Fellini-esque visit with a top ’Ndrangheta man to an office like a notary’s in the posh Rome district of Parioli. He spoke of a “kind of confessional” in the corridor where he had to wait and a plaque bearing odd letters matching one in the home of his clan’s boss.