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The ’ndrangheta is a mafia type organization which originally emerged in Calabria, in Italy’s Southern region. For a long time the organization was seen to be more of a regional problem, of secondary importance to the mafia. However, this all changed after the so-called Duisburg massacre on the 15th August 2007, when six people were killed in a feud between two mafia families from San Luca, a little town in Calabria. This was the proof that the ’ndrangheta’s power reached far further than the Calabrian borders.


In fact, the ’ndrangheta revealed itself to be a modern criminal organization, which uses sophisticated criminal methods and strategies and plays a leading role in international illicit trades, such as the trafficking of cocaine.


This power came about as the result of a few different processes which occurred over the last few decades. At the end of the Seventies, the ’ndrangheta started to invest revenues from its traditional activities (such as kidnappings) into the drug trafficking trade, and started to consolidate its role through a network of affiliates living in the key places, particularly in South and Central America, as well as in other European countries.
 Another element of the success of the ’ndrangheta is its ability to make alliances with relevant members of the ruling sectors in Calabria and across Italy. Through a wide network of accomplices, the Calabrian mafiosi managed to entwine themselves into the regional economy and political sphere - and this means political and social protection for their activities. These modernization processes have updated the workings of the ’ndrangheta without upsetting its traditional structure. The organization is based on a series of ancient ritualistic practices which are typical of a secret association and come from a remote past. These ancient rituals are crucial for maintaining unity within the organization by fostering a community of shared rules among affiliates. At the heart of these rituals is the structure of the ’ndrangheta: at the base there is the ‘ndrina, that is the organization’s core cell which is usually based on blood ties. Members have to come from the same family, or be associated with the family through nuptial ties

In order to formally access the ‘ndrina, members have to undergo an affiliation rite as it has been described in the “codes” (a summa of the rules and symbols of the ’ndrangheta). Outside the ‘ndrine is the locale, a superior level of ‘ndrangheta which is supervised by the so-called copiata, a group made up of representatives of each ‘ndine family.



When the ’ndrine move to territories far from Calabria, they tend to replicate this structure. Recent research has discovered similar this same structure in Central and Northern Italy and in other European countries such as Germany, Netherland and others. The unique mix of ancient elements and modern strategies is probably the secret of the ’ndrangheta’s success. Through these, the Calabrian mafiosi managed to insert themselves, not only in the most important illicit trades in the world

The so-called crimine level represents the unity of the entire organization and  supervises the overall ’ndrine’s activities in Calabria, in Italy and in other countries.

(the drugs trade; the arms trade; and the  illicit disposal of dangerous waste) but also in the economic fabric of some well-developed Italian regions such as Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.. The ‘ndrangheta tends to replicate their traditional criminal methods. For instance, in the Milan area, different neighbourhoods have been subjugated by Calabrian mafia activities in ways that are very similar to the ones which the mafiosi exert in Calabria: a control over the entrepreneurial fabric through menaces and extortions.


One former president of the Anti-mafia Parliamentary Commission explained the ’ndrangheta’s strategies outside its traditional territories by stating that Milan could be considered the ‘’ndrangheta’s capital’. In addition, several different judicial inquiries have found that the ’ndrangheta is able to conduct its affairs and make alliances with local politicians.

 At the moment, magistrates are investigating the role of the Calabrian mafia groups in the major business which are involved in the 2015 Milano Expo, one of the most prestigious set of public works in Italian recent history.

Ultimately, it is difficult to ascertain how far the influence of the ‘ndrangheta may reach, but this Calabrian family business is certainly no small issue for Italy and Italians.