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Calabria’s mob rises as Sicilian Mafia falls

February 21, 2008

by Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: February 21 2008

The most powerful and -efficient “holding company” adapting to globalisation is the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organisation, Italy’s parliamentary anti-Mafia commission warned yesterday.

In a 230-page report intended as a wake-up call to both a domestic audience and Italy’s neighbours, commission members said that while Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and other regional crime groups had been dealt serious setbacks, the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria, rooted in the “toe” of Italy, was on the rise worldwide.

Its wealth derives from an almost exclusive grip on the import of cocaine into Europe, combined with a systematic infiltration of political and economic life in Calabria, where income is siphoned off through European Union and Italian spending on public works, primarily construction and in the health sector.

“The ‘Ndrangheta has met the challenge of globalisation with a most modern -utilisation of ancient planning, through a combination of archaic family structures and an organisation of networks and modules,” the commission said, noting a resemblance to the structure of al-Qaeda, the international terrorism network.

Quoting the “scholar of post-modernism, Zygmunt Bauman”, the commission said the family’s strength derived from being “liquid”.

“The international community must understand that the ‘Ndrangheta are a menace like international terrorists. Calabria alone cannot deal with it,” said Francesco Forgione, the head of the commission.

Globalisation, the fall of the Berlin wall, the enlargement of the EU and the Schengen area had all given impetus to drugs smuggling and the movement of illicit capital, the report said.

Europe could not afford to wake up only to blood in the streets of Duisburg, “having ignored the smell of money” for too long, Mr Forgione said, referring to the murder of six Italians outside a -German pizzeria last August in an inter-clan vendetta. The commission hoped the killings represented a -”systemic crisis” within the leadership.

It also noted with satisfaction the arrest on Monday of Pasquale Condello, a gang leader in the regional capital who had been on the run for more than 20 years. Politicians in Rome asked how he could have stayed so close to home without detection.

In Sicily, strong social movements have raised a collective voice against Cosa Nostra, as seen in the recent drive by business leaders to stop paying extortion money. But in Calabria there has been little public protest against a criminal organisation that keeps a lower profile and has so effectively corrupted local politicians.

Parliament’s anti-Mafia commission has been dissolved ahead of general elections in April. Months will elapse before a new commission is formed and members have questioned how effectively a new government will confront the problem of organised crime.

The report was adopted by parliamentarians from parties on both the left and right in a rare demonstration of unity. Members are also anxious to show to the public, ahead of their re-election campaigns, that they have achieved something.

The Mafia will be a hot election issue in Sicily. Salvatore Cuffaro, the head of the island’s regional government, resigned last month after receiving a five-year jail sentence in a Mafiarelated trial. He is appealing against the conviction and is running in the national elections for the Catholic centrist UDC party.

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