Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts


Brazilian police on Sept. 18 arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta crime network. Andre de Oliveira Macedo AKA “Andre do Rap,” detained in Sao Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy’s southern region of Calabria. (Gazzetta del Sud, Calabria, Sept. 18) In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo state, who were also said to be ‘Ndrangheta operatives. Nicola Assisi and his son were held in an undisclosed location to await extradition to Italy. A month earlier, accused top ‘Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay‚ÄĒangering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (The Local, Italy, July 9)

The ‘Ndrangheta is now thought to traffic much of Europe’s cocaine trade through Calabria, using Bitcoin to launder payments. Last December,¬†90 supposed operatives of the network¬†were arrested in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Colombia. Italy’s press warned of the emergence of a “global ‘Ndrangheta.”¬†(Gazzetta del Sud, Dec. 5, 2018)

Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library Map Collection

  1. Italy targets ‘Ndrangheta in mass trial

    One of Italy’s largest-ever mafia trials kicked off this week, with more than 320 suspected mobsters and their associates facing an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and theft. The case targets the ‘Ndrangheta, based in Calabria and considered the most powerful crime group in the country, easily eclipsing the more famous Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

    The trial is being held in a converted call-center in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, with defendants placed in metal cages and rows of desks set up for the hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors, journalists and spectators expected to attend. Many of the accused are white-collar workers, including lawyers, accountants, businessmen, local politicians and police officers. The state will call on 913 witnesses and draw on 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations to support the myriad charges. 

    The last time Italy tried hundreds of alleged mafiosi simultaneously was in 1986 in Palermo in a case that represented a turning point in the fight against the Cosa Nostra. That trial had a huge impact because it targeted numerous mob families.

    The Calabrian trial, in contrast, focuses primarily on one group‚ÄĒthe Mancuso clan from the province of Vibo Valentia‚ÄĒleaving much of the ‘Ndrangheta’s top hierarchy untouched. (CNN)

  2. Calabrian crime boss popped in Brazil

    Italian prosecutors on May 26 cheered the capture in Brazil of a leading fugitive crime boss. Rocco Morabito, number two on Italy's most dangerous fugitives list, was arrested the previous day in northeast Brazil. His capture in the city of Joao Pessoa, Paraíba, came almost two years after his escape from a prison in Uruguay, where he was awaiting extradition to Italy. Dubbed the "king of cocaine," he has been wanted since 1994 by Italian authorities. Morabito is "one of the most important brokers in narco-trafficking," said Giovanni Bombardieri, chief prosecutor in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. (AFP, EuroNews)

    Meanwhile, police in Kosovo seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine in an international operation with Italian authorities. The drugs were first found by scanners in the port of Gioia Tauro, Calabria, in a container from Brazil. The shipment was then intercepted on the way to its final destination to a company in the town of Lipjan, Kosovo. (AFP)

  3. Bloody Cosa Nostra boss released from prison

    Former Italian mob boss turned informant Giovanni Brusca was released from Rebibbia prison in Rome May 31.

    Brusca, a high-profile leader of the Sicilian¬†Cosa Nostra, was¬†arrested in 1996¬†after having long eluded Italian law enforcement. Brusca was the “right-hand man of the so-called super boss Tot√≤ Riina, who died in prison in 2017.”¬†Brusca is held responsible for setting off a bomb in 1992 that killed Italian judge¬†Giovanni Falcone, who was known for his dedication to uprooting the mafia. Falcone‚Äôs wife and three guards were also killed in the 1992 bombing, which occurred on a road from the airport outside Palermo that led to his home. ‚ÄúThe attack, followed two months later by the killing of ‚Ķ Falcone‚Äôs colleague Paolo Borsellino, rocked Italy and resulted in tough new anti-Mafia laws.‚ÄĚ

    Brusca is the last member of the group convicted in the 1992 bombing to be released from prison. Other convicted participants, including Gioacchino La Barbera and Santino Di Matteo, “almost immediately”¬†chose to cooperate with the government and were freed. In revenge for his confession, mobsters kidnapped Di Matteo‚Äôs 12-year old son Giuseppe, held him for two years, and then¬†under Brusca‚Äôs order¬†killed him and dissolved his body in acid.

    Brusca was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing over 100 people. His sentence was reduced to 30 years when he agreed to cooperate with the government. Additionally, under Italian sentencing guidelines, prisoners are entitled to a reduction of 45 days for every six months spent in prison. The sentence reduction enabled Brusca to be released on after serving 25 years. Brusca will now be on probation for four years. (Jurist)

  4. Italy court convicts 70 in mass ‘Ndrangheta trial

    An Italian court in Lamezia Terme, Calabria, convicted and sentenced 70 members of the ‚ÄėNdrangheta crime group on charges relating to attempted murder and extortion.

    The ‘Ndrangheta is one of the largest and most powerful organized crime groups in Italy, composed of more than 150 families. The current trial focused specifically on the Mancuso family. In December 2019, some 2,500 police officers carried out raids¬†across the region¬†in a massive operation.

    The defendants in the case ranged from businessmen to politicians. Over the next two years, 355 alleged members will face trial for their involvement in the network. The ongoing trial began in January 2021, with anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri leading the government’s case. Due to his efforts against the group, Gratteri has been forced to live under police escort for the past 30 years.

    The maximum sentence of 20 years was handed down to some of the most dangerous and notorious members of the organization, including Domenico Macri of the group’s military wing and Pasquale Gallone, right-hand man of the organization’s alleged boss Luigi Mancuso. Around 20 individuals received 10 year sentences. In addition to the 70 convicted, 21 more were acquitted. Some of the individuals were acquitted at the request of the prosecutors.

    The ‘Ndrangheta rose to power after Sicily’s Costa Nostra mafia was taken down in a similar trial involving 460 members in 1987. Shortly after the convictions, anti-mafia prosecutors Giovani Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were assassinated by its members. When the Sicilian mafia was defeated, the ‘Ndrangheta began to corner the cocaine market, and today is said to net some $72 billion from their global business and profits from their “cosche” (clan) operations. (Jurist, EuroNews)

  5. Mafia boss arrested but prosecutors warn fight is not over

    After¬†30 years of evading justice,¬†Italy’s most-wanted accused Mafia boss Messina Denaro was arrested in Palermo following lengthy surveillance operation. The 60-year-old had been convicted in absentia of masterminding dozens of murders, including those of two anti-mafia prosecutors.¬†But Italian prosecutors are warning that the fight against organized crime is far from over. (EuroNews)

  6. Italy claims new blow against ‘Ndrangheta

    Italian police on Jan. 25 arrested 56 people throughout the country for links with the “Mancuso clan” of the notorious ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, seizing around ‚ā¨250 million worth in assets. The suspects face¬†charges¬†including¬†extortion, kidnapping, arms trafficking, corruption and fraud.¬†

    The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso AKA “The Supreme”¬†is currently on trial. But authorities say his clan and affiliates, including the Accortini and¬†La Rosa families, have continued to dominate activity in Vibo Valentia province on the toe of Italy’s boot, known as the “Coast of the Gods”¬†for stunning coastal views. Many of the arrests took place in¬†Vibo Valentia. (AFP, EuroNews, Calabria7)

  7. Italy: police arrest 60 ‘Ndrangheta suspects in nationwide raids

    Italian police on May 11 arrested a further 61 suspected members of the ‘Ndrangheta in a series of raids across seven regions. They are suspected of crimes including fraud, drug-trafficking, infiltrating government and extorting local farmers. More than 500 police officers were involved in the operation.

    Last week, more than 100 people were arrested across Europe in what police said was the biggest operation to have ever been carried out against the ‘Ndrangheta. (BBC News)

  8. More than 200 convicted in mass ‘Ndrangheta trial

    A court in Lamezia Terme, Italy, convicted more than 230 defendants and sentenced them to a combined 2,100 years in prison at the close of one of the country's largest-ever organized crime trials, targeting the 'Ndrangheta network in the southern region of Calabria.

    More than 330 suspects had been facing an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and theft, in a trial that lasted almost three years.The heaviest penalties were handed to Saverio Razionale and Domenico Bonavota, two local Calabrian bosses, both given 30-year sentences. Also among those convicted was Giancarlo Pittelli, a lawyer and former politician with the Forza Italia party—a member of the national ruling coalitionwho was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

    A further 70 defendants from the original trial were found guilty in November 2021 after opting for a fast-track procedure in return for reductions in their sentences.

    The trial was referred to as the “Rinascita Scott,” named after the US DEA agent Scott W. Sieben, who was credited with uncovering ties between Colombia's cartels and the 'Ndrangheta. (Reuters, France24, CNN, Jurist)