Thousands of Italian police officers brought in 300 members of the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia in one of the biggest crime sweeps in Italian history after the sweep was launched around 3:50 A.M. The police promptly executed the sweep by ’cleaning out’ the members’ houses and workplaces. Arresting 300 members of the ‘Ndrangheta was no easy task. The firmly established crime ‘family’ thrives in Calabria, the southernmost region of Italy, mostly on drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and the usual mafia extortion.
The ’Ndrangheta (meaning heroism, derived from Greek) did not start humbly in an olive market as the Corleone family did in the romantic portrayal of the mafia in the Godfather trilogy. The ‘Ndrangheta’s history stretches all the way back to the tax evaders and thieves in the late 20th century until it evolved into a “legitimate” crime organization in the ’70s. In a baptism of blood, the ‘Ndrangheta made up of more than 130 clans began waging gang wars in its region and put substanial amounts of its funds into drug trade and abductions while constructing a friendship with cocaine intermediaries in Colombia.
It was the last straw for the Italian government when the ‘Ndrangheta defaced the historic wall of Italy’s 21st century with its high profile, 2005 assassination of Italian politician Francesco Fortugno, the Vice President of the Regional Assembly of Calabria who spoke out against the ‘Ndrangheta.
A painstaking undercover investigation of this criminal empire had to be carried out before any thoughts of arresting its members surfaced. The investigation itself had to be carefully planned; planners worried that the investigation could’ve failed because the rigid structure of the ‘Ndrangheta was laced with the famous omertà (code of silence) could wave away any undercover investigation.
The police discovered through its investigation that one of the 300 men caught, 80-year old Domenico Oppedisano, was christened the boss of the ‘Ndrangheta during a 2009 wedding boosting the importance of Tuesday’s sweep.
Authorities did not disclose statements regarding the success in the mafia’s attempts to corrupt politicians, local media, businessmen, and even the police. However authorities hinted that this sweep confirmed a “national emergency”.
Not only the information found in both the investigation and the sweep was damning for the 300 arrested criminals to be charged but an unbelievable amount of millions of dollars in property (illegally attained) was confiscated. Furthermore, caches of dangerous weapons and money were discovered. According to officials, the ‘Ndrangheta with its international branches rake in an amount of roughly 50 billion U.S dollars, in narcotics trade along with other illegal activities such as smuggling weapons, extorting, blackmailing for assets, financial investments, and of course, prostitution.
Now that the “heart” of the ‘Ndrangheta is taken, the Italian government hopes that in due time, the crime organization will be completely dismantled by both law-enforcement efforts and the lack of a leadership for the ‘Ndrangheta.