In one of the most significant trials in Italian history, a court on Monday sentenced over 200 members of the ‘Ndrangheta’ mafia organization to more than 2,200 years in prison. The ‘Ndrangheta’, which is believed to have originated from Calabria, Italy, has become one of the most powerful and widespread mafia groups in the country and beyond.
The group’s name comes from the ancient Greek words “andros” and “agathos”, meaning man and brave, respectively. However, its reputation as a dominant force in criminal activities is earned through its ability to rely on traditional clan loyalties while remaining flexible enough to explore new business opportunities both legally and illegally.
The ‘Ndrangheta’ has been involved in various criminal activities such as kidnapping, drug trafficking (especially cocaine), illegal waste trafficking, blackmailing, and usury. One of their high-profile victims was John Paul Getty III, an American oil family scion who was kidnapped in Rome in 1973 and held captive for five months before being rescued.
According to a semi-annual report by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA), ‘Ndrangheta’ is currently the most powerful organized crime group in Italy. Its strength lies not only in its traditional ties but also in its flexibility to expand into new markets both domestically and internationally. The DIA described it as having a strong presence throughout Europe and beyond with local cells maintaining strong ties with their homeland of Calabria.
In recent years, European police have arrested more than 100 suspects linked to the group for drug trafficking and weapons smuggling with counterparts Latin America. Suspects were accused of using Chinese money brokers to move funds across borders for illicit purposes. According to Eurispes research group, ‘Ndrangheta’ had an annual turnover of 44 billion euros or approximately 3% of Italy’s GDP at that time. The organization is known to operate worldwide with established presences as far away as Canada and Australia.