Italian anti-mafia police arrested 40 people in northern Italy on Tuesday in operations to combat ‘Ndrangheta, the most powerful crime organization in the world. Police also managed to film a series of initiation rites in the organization for the first time ever.
The arrests were the culmination of two years of investigation, according to ANSA. Police arrested suspects on charges of involvement with organized crime, extortion and possession of unlicensed firearms. Police bugged cellphones and planted hidden cameras.
The ‘Ndrangheta syndicate is based out of Calabria, a region on the southern tip of Italy, but the suspects arrested were reportedly part of working clans in the small villages of Como and Lecco in Lombardy, northern Italy. Some ‘Ndrangheta members were also arrested in Sicily.
The ceremony filmed was involved initiating a member as a “Santa,” the highest rank in the organization. It took place at a mangiata, or feast, of three clans. Members referred to each other and their absent colleagues with the names of 19th century Italian unification leaders, like Guiseppe Garibaldi, who’s name was used for one of the three clan leaders. The larger meeting involved assigning jobs and roles to each member and organizing a chain of leadership among the clans.
‘Ndrangheta brought in $73 billion in 2013, more than the GDP of Cuba in 2012, which was the 65th largest economy in the world that year. The syndicate came to prominence over the last 20 years, becoming larger than possibly the most famous Italian crime group, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. ‘Ndrangheta is involved in prostitution, extortion and drug trafficking rings, along with the sale of illegal weapons and fake goods.
The operation was led by prosecutor Ilda Boccassini, who has earned a fierce reputation for going after organized crime in Italy. She led the arrest of 300 suspected ‘Ndrangheta members in 2010 in a countrywide, synchronized operation.
A video of one conversation between clan leaders and Italian transcription can be seen here.