Italy arrests 305 in campaign against crime syndicate
Police say group was tightly run, gaining power
MILAN — Prosecutors claimed a major victory over the powerful and growing ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate, infiltrating weddings, baptisms, and other events to gather information that led to the arrests yesterday of 305 people, including top bosses, and the seizure of more than $76 million in cash and property.
One of the most significant revelations to emerge from the investigation was that the Calabrian mob had a tight hierarchal structure like that of the Sicilian Mafia and was not just an association of clans, as previously believed. While expanding its economic reach into the wealthy Lombard region in Northern Italy, the ’Ndrangheta was also concentrating its power in its native Calabria, prosecutors said.
The operation began before dawn with the arrest of Domenico Oppedisano, alleged to be the crime group’s top boss, in Calabria.
But the investigation owed its success to investigators’ ability to infiltrate events such as the 2009 wedding of the children of two crime bosses in Calabria, attended by thousands of well-wishers, where Oppedisano was named to his post, said prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone.
When Oppedisano was formally elevated some two weeks later, on Sept. 2, undercover agents got video of the crime syndicate’s major bosses all being confirmed in their new positions, he said.
Police “have been able to record since Aug. 1, 2009, all of the major negotiations of the various families,’’ Pignatone said.
That includes about 40 similar meetings in Lombardy, which has become the Calabrian mob’s moneymaking center, with operations focusing on excavations for construction sites, trash disposal, and real estate. Prosecutors were unable to estimate how much the ’Ndrangheta is taking in each year. Wiretaps indicate as many as 500 ’Ndrangheta mobsters are operating in Lombardy, where 160 were arrested.
The ’Ndrangheta has emerged as one of the most powerful crime syndicates, even though officials have recognized it as a criminal organization only since February. From Calabria, it has spread to Northern Italy, where it migrated in the 1970s and ’80s, to Germany, and as far away as Canada and Australia.
The raids involved 3,000 police; charges ranged from murder and extortion to arms and drug trafficking.