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‘Ndrangheta: Italian grandma tips off police to bring down mafia clan

A tip from an Italian grandmother hoping to save her grandson from drugs helped lead police to dismantle a mafia drug ring operating in the southern Calabria region, authorities said Wednesday.

'Ndrangheta: Italian grandma tips off police to bring down mafia clan
(Photo by Gianluca CHININEA / AFP)

Police said 18 people were arrested on suspicion of drug dealing around the Calabrian district of Cetraro as part of the “Muto” clan.

The clan is one of many within the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, an organised crime syndicate considered one of the world’s most powerful, whose main business is drug trafficking.

“The grandmother went to the Carabinieri (police) to ask them to save her grandson who was being devoured by the world of drugs,” Colonel Piero Sutera, commander of the local Carabinieri police force, told a press conference.

READ ALSO: Meet the ’Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Large amounts of cocaine moved by the clan were acquired through a broker operating on the other side of Calabria, according to investigators, who said they had discovered 250 episodes of drug dealing.

The group was also involved in extorting entrepreneurs operating in the tourism sector, one of whom had sought the help of police.

“People have suffered and seen the arrogance of these criminals who insisted on extorting money,” anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told reporters, as quoted by the Gazzetta del Sud daily.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

(Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Gratteri, who is the lead prosecutor in an ongoing “maxi-trial” against the ‘Ndrangheta elsewhere in Calabria with over 300 defendants, said some of the extorted money went to clan members in jail and their families, the paper reported.

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MAFIA

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage

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