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Home English 'Ndrangheta 'snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade'

'Ndrangheta 'snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade'


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, February 11 - Calabria's 'Ndrangheta mafia,
once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft
and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade
and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa
Nostra's historic five families in New York, investigators said
after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday.
"This was an important operation because we proved that the
power of the 'Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra",
Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New
York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from
Guyana to Europe via the 'Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port
of Gioia Tauro.
"Cosa Nostra purchased heroin from the Ursino family in
Calabria, which was also seeking to launder 11 million euros in
New York. They set up a joint venture, with input from a Mexican
cartel, to import 500 kilos of cocaine a month from the US to
Top anti-mafia cop Raffaele Grassi said that over the past
six years, 'Ndrangheta has made a grab for Cosa Nostra's former
relationships with US mobsters, including the Gambinos in New
York, and South American narcos.
"New Bridge has shown that the 'Ndrangheta has expanded far
beyond its place of origin", said Grassi, who directs Italy's
national anti-racketeering division.
"Not only has it infiltrated northern Italy and Europe, it
is carving ever bigger slices of the criminal pie. It is
exporting heroin to America and importing cocaine into Italy,
using the Gambino family's contacts with the South American
cartels", he explained.
The blitz came in the wake of a similar joint Italy-US
operation against the Sicilian Mafia in 2008 that bust a drug
trafficking ring involving Cosa Nostra families in Palermo and
members of the Gambino family in New York.
Some 80 people were arrested on that occasion on suspicion
of mafia association, homicide, extortion and other crimes.
Since then the 'Ndrangheta has usurped Cosa Nostra as
Italy's richest and most powerful crime syndicate with contacts
and activities across the globe.
In the latest bust a total of 40 people were placed under
investigation in connection with the probe, which allegedly
involves 'Ndrangheta families based along Calabria's Ionian
coast and operating across Italy, the United States, Canada and
central and South America.
Francesco Ursino, the alleged head of the Ursino
'Ndrangheta clan based in Gioiosa Ionica and son of convicted
boss Antonio, and Giovanni Morabito, nephew of the convicted
boss Giuseppe, known as 'u' tiradrittu' (the unstoppable), were
among those arrested in Italy.
Italian police detained 18 people during the raids, while
the FBI reportedly arrested eight in New York in a two-year
joint operation nicknamed New Bridge.

New Bridge uncovered evidence that the Ursino clan in
Calabria "worked hand in glove and in total synergy" with the
Gambino family in New York to set up their international drug
trafficking operation, Italian prosecutors said in their 18
arrest warrants.
The Gambinos brought their contacts within the South
American drug cartels to the table while the Ursinos contributed
their "organizational capacity and control of the territory".
Together, they set up a "ramified logistical network".
Prosecutors said the go-between was Franco Lupoi, 44, a
reputed member of the Gambino family who was reportedly among
those taken into custody in New York.
Key information used to launch the raids came from
under-cover agents, the FBI said.
One, whose assumed Mob name was Jimmy, was said to have
"dined regularly with bosses in Brooklyn". He found out that
drugs was arriving in liquid form concealed in tins of pineapple
or coconut.
One top Gambino operative was arrested at New York's
Marriott Downtown Hotel.


One of those arrested Tuesday said the organisation was as
"well armed" and with a base comparable to the famously
well-defended US gold-bullion depository of Fort Knox,
magistrates said.
Raffaele Valente, who investigators believe is at the head
of the US arm of the presumed international drug trafficking and
money-laundering ring, made the comments on January 17 during a
recorded conversation in New York.
During the conversation the magistrates said Valente
boasted of occupying a "position of authority within the family"
and said that he was with people who could "crush the others

'Ndrangheta (from a Greek word meaning 'heroism' or
'virtue') once lived in the twin shadow of Cosa Nostra in Sicily
and the Camorra in Naples.
While those two syndicates, notably the Sicilians, were
growing fat on the transatlantic heroin trade through operations
like the infamous 'French connection', 'Ndrangheta was only just
emerging from its traditional stock-in-trade of kidnappings in
the Calabrian highlands.
It has since become a highly sophisticated global network
while controlling swathes of its home turf where police fear to
tread, Italian officials say.
As well as being the richest, 'Ndrangheta is also regarded
as the most impenetrable of Italy's mafias, with its close-knit
family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian mafia in its
ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into State
The European law enforcement agency Europol identified the
'Ndrangheta mafia in a June report as one of the "most
threatening" organized crime groups on the global level, due to
its "enormous financial might" and "immense corruptive
power," with a presence in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands,
France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, US, Colombia and
Australia, where 'Ndrangheta turf wars have gained headlines.
In Europe, 'Ndrangheta really only came into the public eye
in 2007, when six clan members were gunned down on the midsummer
Ferragosto holiday in the German city of Duisburg in a feud that
began as a wedding spat in 1991.
A string of 'Ndrangheta-linked businesses have been seized
in the last few years all over northern Italy, and especially in
the affluent Lombard belt around Milan, and a Lombardy regional
councillor was placed under investigation for buying votes from
transplanted clans.
On the Italian Riviera, the town councils of Bordighera and
Ventimiglia were dissolved for 'Ndrangheta infiltration in 2011
and 2012, the first non-Calabrian municipalities to be wound up
because of such penetration.
In Rome, the Calabrian Mob has laundered money in a string
of plum properties, as attested to by recent seizures èpolice
say are only the tip of the iceberg.
Last November Grand Hotel Gianicolo, a former monastery
converted into a four-star hotel for the Catholic Church's
Jubilee in 2000, was seized from Calabrian businessmen linked to
the 'Ndrangheta.
It is one of the swankiest properties on the hill,
Gianicolo or Janiculum, that affords one of the most
breathtaking views over Rome.
"This goes to show how far 'Ndrangheta money has penetrated
the Italian capital," police said at the time.
"They are quite bold about where they will launder their
Five years ago a former Dolce Vita-era bar and restaurant
on the storied Via Veneto, the Caffe' De Paris, turned out to be
in the hands of the Calabrian Mob.

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