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Trial of Italian mafiosos leads to Russia

In the photo: Nicola Gratteri
The court sentenced 70 members of the Ndrangheta criminal organization. They were charged with attempted murder , money laundering, drug dealing. They were associated with Russian mafiosi.

Process of the century: In Italy, members of the most powerful mafia organization in the world are tried, and connections lead to the Russians

Last weekend, in the Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme, in the morning, police aircraft were raised into the sky, checkpoints were set up at the entrance to the court. So the Italian security forces were preparing for the largest trial against the mafia in more than 30 recent years. Special security measures have been taken against the chief prosecutor, Nikola Gratteri , who has been assassinated more than once. The trial took place in a specially built bunker-type room, which was guarded by hundreds of soldiers armed to the teeth.

Prosecutor Nikola GratteriProsecutor Nikola Gratteri

The trial, which was attended by 900 witnesses, received its own name - "Renaissance". For this, an abandoned call center in a local industrial area was converted into a courtroom for a thousand people. Only the names of the criminals were read out for more than an hour - there are 447 defendants in total, almost all of them are members of the Calabrian clan of Mancuso, whose sphere of influence is the southern province of Vibo Valentia. Among the convicts is the head of the clan Luigi Mancuso , known by the nickname Uncle. His group supplied drugs through a preferred channel of communication with the Colombian cartels and Spanish drug dealers. Mancuso is also in charge of shipping drugs to Australia.

Italy's mafia trialItaly's mafia trial

The trial in Lamezia Terme was the result of the arrest of the bosses of two large families in 2019, when the nephew of one of them handed over his relatives to the police, breaking the oath of silence - the omerta, which was previously considered the basis of the group's invulnerability. So far, the first part of the process has passed and 70 criminals have been convicted. Some received 20 years in prison.

The most dangerous organized criminal group in the world

The last similar trial against the famous Sicilian organized criminal group - "Cosa Nostra" - took place in 1986-1987. Then 338 people were convicted. Since the days of film commissioner Cattani, the criminal situation in Italy has changed significantly. The Sicilian "Cosa Nostra", which gave the whole world crime the name "mafia", like the Neapolitan Camorra, went to Italy to play supporting roles.

Defendants before the start of the trial.  Five members of "Ndrangheta"Defendants before the start of the trial. Five members of "Ndrangheta"

"Ndrangheta" stepped into the leading roles imperceptibly, but confidently. Italian prosecutors called the group "the far side of the moon" - for the secrecy of its members. At the same time, Calabria is the land of violent bandits. In antiquity, the region was colonized by the Greeks - "Ndrangheta" comes from the Greek word ἀνδραγαθἰα, meaning courage and courage. While the Italian law enforcement officers were spending all their efforts on the fight against the Sicilian and Neapolitan mafia groups, Ndrangheta went international, becoming the most influential criminal organization in the world. Back in 2007, the Eurispes research institute estimated its annual income at € 47 billion. According to the Demoskope Institute for Demography, in 2013 (with a turnover of € 53 billion per year), the organized criminal group was richer than Deutsche Bank and McDonald's combined.

US Government experts have ranked Ndrangheta as the fourth most dangerous organization in the world after Al Qaeda, the Kurdistan Workers' Party and Mexican drug cartels. Interpol considers "Ndrangheta" more influential and more dangerous than even the Russian mafia. However, Ndrangheta has been doing business with the Russian mafia since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The language of communication is always the same: weapons and drugs. Italians do not prevent Russians from doing business in the country if they do not come into contact with the interests of the mafia. And they themselves do not go to the Russians - despite the fact that "Ndrangheta" is actively present in many countries, there is no branch in Russia.

Although 70 Ndrangheta members received lengthy prison sentences this weekend, the group continues to be the most aggressive mafia movement in the country and a threat to Italy's national security.

Smart grouping structure

Compared to Cosa Nostra, the Calabrian mafia has moved away from complicated rituals and ostentatious religiosity. "Ndrangeta" has a horizontal structure and consists of peculiar cells - ndrins, which are often linked by blood ties. In Calabria alone, there are over 120 ndrins, which often compete with each other. The head of the cell is the "capobastone" - the oldest man in the family. If he is in prison, power can be transferred to his wife. A particularly worthy woman is given the title "Sister of Silence." Ndrins unite in larger groups - "lokale" - from 50 people. It already has its own accountants, killers and a special arbiter (Mastro di Giornata), who resolves the contradictions between the ndrins. This is relevant because blood feud is still common here. Lokale, in turn, are united in districts.

Worthy members of the Ndrangheta usually have a cross tattoo on their right thumb. They also wear a cross with a star on their chests. The center of the grouping is the city of Reggio. Mafia bosses can hide in their homeland for decades. Not only is Calabria itself unusually corrupt and heavily influenced by bandits. Under some of the houses, real underground bunkers are built, connected by secret underground passages, from where the leaders of the "Ndranget" can safely manage operations around the world. This mafia does not have a "boss of all bosses", like the same "Cosa Nostra" - the main issues of the "Ndrangheta" are decided collectively by the bosses of the largest ndrins.

Ndrina can be founded by two or three people as a small criminal enterprise. Only after it proves its success, the cell becomes a real part of the "Ndrangheta". This structure makes it easy to export branches of the mafia around the world and build a strong international criminal network.

Mafia and Russia

In the summer of 2018, crime boss Yuri Esin , also known as Samosval , was detained in Moscow . Subsequently, he escaped and was put on the international wanted list, and the members of his organized criminal group received long sentences this spring. In the 90s, Yesin was considered the head of the Russian mafia in Italy. It was he who convened a meeting of compatriots at the Golf Hotel in Rome, which was covered by the Italian carabinieri. The police then arrested ten Russians and two Italians.

The Italians considered that Esin from the Solntsevo organized criminal group established the arms trade in the country and the supply of prostitutes from the CIS countries. They became interested in authority after organizing clandestine import of oil products from Russia through the private company Globus Trading.

According to the former Italian Interior Minister Filippo Mancuso , the Russians came to Italy later than others, but zealously made up for lost time. Also, Mancuso believes that the local mafias, including the "Ndrangheta", evolved precisely under the influence of the Russians. The Dons began to move away from their traditional business - the exploitation of wage labor or the machinations of construction contracts - and look towards the arms and drug trafficking, as well as the organization of prostitution. Moreover, "Ndrangheta" was the most accommodating. A number of oaths in the "Ndrangheta" rituals promulgated not so long ago begin with the enigmatic phrase " In the name of the Russian prince".

According to Italian journalists, back in 2008, the Russian mafia entered into an alliance with the main Ndrins, gaining control over a number of Italian agricultural enterprises and cargo transportation. The Russians also control the delivery of opiates from Asia. It is interesting that eight years ago in Italy, in Bari, influential members of the Kutaisi criminal clan settled, including Merab Dzhangveladze, who was accused there of creating a criminal community and money laundering. The prosecutor demanded 10 years for Dzhangveladze, but the judge appointed four, because he considered that his organized criminal group was not a "mafia-type" criminal group. Dzhangveladze served his term in his villa under house arrest, after which he moved to Turkey.

Merab Dzhangveladze and Yuri EsinMerab Dzhangveladze and Yuri Esin

The relevance of Italy as a Russian "laundry" has not diminished in recent years. For example, the Italian Center for Investigative Journalism has checked about 100,000 banking transactions over the past decade, finding that the country has received two billion euros of "Russian money", which bought up estates in Tuscany and collections of antiques. The large Italian newspaper La Stampa reported about shady schemes - allegedly through the Baltic banks through a multitude of small money transfers, large sums of money continue to flow from Russia.