December 3, 2021

'Ndrangheta is an Italian criminal organization based in the region of Calabria. Over the last two decades, it has become the most powerful Italian mafia and its activities are estimated to account for 3% of Italian GDP; gradually, however, its activities spread throughout the world. The primary source of profits is cocaine smuggling. The cohesion and secrecy of the members of Ndrangheta is based on blood relations, the whole organization is then governed by a meeting of local cell bosses, the so-called Supreme Council.


The name 'Ndrangheta' probably comes from the Greek word andragathía (heroism, virtue, masculinity) or andragathos (brave man). Although 'Ndrangheta is believed to have been active as early as the early 18th century, the first factual mention of it dates back to 1861, when the city-states were united. Another mention is from 1888; it concerned an anonymous statement to the prefect of the province of Reggio di Calabria, Francesca Paternostra, and referred to a secret sect which was to be 'Ndrangheta. From the very beginning, the organization has been accompanied by criminal activity, including kidnappings and murders. For most of the 20th century, 'Ndrangheta had only a vague structure that led to bloody internal strife. The abduction of John Paul Getty III became famous. in 1973, for whose release 'Ndrangheta collected $ 2.9 million. The transformation into a highly structured organization then took place at the end of the 20th century. In modern history, 'Ndrangheta has manifested itself most in two major conflicts - the first is considered to be the war that broke out in 1975 after the killing of Antonio Macri and claimed about 300 victims. The Second Ndranghet War between 1985 and 1991 cost about 700 lives. In 2014, Pope Francis very condemned 'Ndrangheta, according to whom the mobsters excommunicate themselves from the church.

Large police raids and trials

After several years of investigation, the police carried out a coordinated international raid in December 2019, during which several hundred people were detained during raids in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria. The first trial of 91 defendants began in January 2021 in the town of Lamezia Terme, in a building with an underground courtroom specially built for this purpose. On November 6, 2021, a court convicted 70 defendants of mafia, attempted murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion and illegal possession of weapons. About a third of those convicted were sentenced to 10 years or more in prison. Among those sentenced to 20 years in prison is Pasquale Gallone, who is considered the right-hand man of Luigi Mancusa, nicknamed Uncle, who is the alleged boss of 'Ndrangheta. The trial with him and more than 350 defendants is ongoing and is expected to take about 2 years.


'Ndrangheta differs from other mafia-type criminal organizations mainly in its structure. It is not based on a pyramidal division, but on a horizontal distribution of power. The individual clans, which can be estimated at between 100 and 150 and number about 7,000 members, have divided spheres of influence, individual parts of Calabria. The members of the 'Ndrangheta call themselves' ndrina and the organization itself is then called' ndrina. It is based on a blood bond. Virtually only family members from individual clans become members. (However, 'Ndrangheta career paths must be earned by each member and proven by their criminal activity that they belong to the community.) Marriages are again practiced among clans. In this way, there is greater certainty of maintaining omerta and coherence based on kinship. Unlike Cosa nostra, which is traditionally a male affair, 'Ndrangheta also uses women. They work as clutches, guarding stolen goods, etc.

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