Is mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro forming an alliance of Italy’s top gangs?
Are the Italian mafia syndicates rebranding themselves in the digital age? The serene backdrop of a garden meal in April 2021 might suggest a gathering of old friends rather than a conclave of Italy’s most feared.
Yet, the pasta and wine shared between the leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Camorra, and Cosa Nostra symbolize more than a casual meetup; it signifies what could be the dawn of a new era in organized crime. This meal, captured on camera, has triggered alarm bells, hinting at the potential emergence of a formidable alliance among these notorious mafia groups.
In the affluent northern cities like Milan, whispers of a “grand crime coalition” have grown louder. A place synonymous with fashion and commerce is now the backdrop for a criminal syndicate merger of cinematic proportions.
Imagine a scene where a Camorra don utters, “We’re not in Sicily, we’re not in Rome, we’re not in Naples, this is where we’re doing the good stuff,” as reported by the Telegraph. The response from a Cosa Nostra affiliate is just as chilling: “We’ve built an empire.”
A New Dawn of Crime
These are not scenes from the latest mob movie but snippets from a real-life drama unfolding in Italy. The death of Sicilian boss Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina in 2017 might have been a chapter’s end, but the pages of mafia history are far from closed.
While Riina, known as ‘The Beast’, was notorious for a brutal reign that included the murder of over a hundred people, the current leaders seem to have a different approach. They’ve taken the bloodshed out of the streets and into the boardrooms, with a focus on white-collar crimes over public shootouts.
This shift is part of a larger strategy by the syndicates to consolidate power and influence. The reports of their union have revealed a pivot to infiltrating legitimate businesses, particularly in Milan, leveraging the city’s global economic stature. Such a move is not just about expanding their wealth but cementing a presence in the legitimate world, making it harder for law enforcement to track their criminal activities.
The evidence of this alliance first surfaced through Operation Hydra, a three-year undercover investigation.
The crackdown involved around 600 Carabinieri officers conducting raids that resulted in the arrest of 11 alleged mafia members. Charges ranged from extortion and firearms possession to drug trafficking. The operation also saw the seizure of assets worth over 225 million euros, with at least 142 individuals still under investigation.
The mafia’s evolution into a “super mafia” is a chilling development, one that sees them as a more insidious threat than ever before. Rather than explosive violence, they’ve adopted a strategy of silent expansion, with their tendrils reaching into the fabric of Italy’s legitimate industries.
The Shift to the Shadows
The days of public bloodbaths and open assassinations are being replaced by a calculated move towards economic infiltration and white-collar crime. This is a significant pivot for groups like the Camorra, historically known for their brutal enforcement and drug trafficking activities. They’re now suspected of laundering their illicit profits through investments in Milan’s fashion industry, among others.
Even the ‘Ndrangheta, with its stronghold in the mountainous Calabria region, has made a strategic shift. Known for a history of kidnappings and brutal enforcement, they’ve now reportedly expanded to over 40 countries, diversifying their criminal portfolio to include activities like money laundering and public contract rigging.
By reinvesting their profits into legitimate companies, these organizations are not just laundering money; they’re buying power and influence. This approach makes dismantling their networks even more challenging for the Italian Department of Public Security, which invests millions of euros annually in anti-mafia operations. Despite significant arrests, such as the 70 mobsters jailed for up to 20 years in 2021, the ‘Ndrangheta and its counterparts continue to thrive.
The evolution of the Italian mafia is a testament to their adaptability and resilience. The romanticized image of the Sicilian mob boss, as portrayed in The Godfather, is giving way to a new reality: organized crime syndicates as hybrid entities, deeply embedded within both the underworld and the upper worlds of commerce and finance.
The End of an Era and the Rise of Another
The death of Cosa Nostra’s Matteo Messina Denaro earlier this year marks not just the passing of a notorious figure but the end of an era. Denaro, known for his ruthlessness, has left behind a legacy of violence and fear. But as one godfather falls, the structure of the mafia does not crumble; it evolves, adapts, and finds new ways to survive and flourish.
As we look at the changing landscape of organized crime in Italy, it’s evident that the mafia is not just a relic of the past but a living, evolving entity.