Sat, Feb 23, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Italian commission describes rise of 'ndrangheta crime syndicate in report

AP , ROME

A parliamentary report into the 'ndrangheta says Italy's notorious crime syndicate spreads its tentacles like al-Qaeda and resembles a fast-food chain because of its ability to market its brand as it expands abroad.

The report is the first comprehensive study by parliament's anti-Mafia commission on the 'ndrangheta, a group that came into the spotlight last summer with the killing of six Italians outside a pizzeria in Germany.

It offers solid evidence to claims by investigators that the syndicate has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia in recent years in power and international reach.

"Today the 'ndrangheta ... is the most modern organization, the most powerful one as far as cocaine trafficking goes," the commission said in a 239-page report, which was released on Wednesday.

It is "the one able to obtain and offer deadly weapons of war and destruction."

The commission report said the 'ndrangheta has reached a "basically exclusive" control over cocaine imports from Colombia, forcing all other criminal organizations, including Sicily's Cosa Nostra, to deal with it if they want to have access to the drug.

Over the decades, the group, originally based in the southern Calabria region, has spread to central and northern Italy, in much of Europe as well as in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, Morocco, Canada, the US and Australia, the report said.

"In the same way as great fast-food-chains, it offers -- all over the world, in places very different from one another -- the identical, recognizable, reliable brand and the same criminal product," it said.

What sets the 'ndrangheta apart from other crime syndicates, including its equivalent in Sicily, is mostly its structure, which is strictly based on close family ties. This makes the 'ndrangheta less vulnerable to the risk of turncoats, whose testimony has dealt harsh blows to the Mafia in the past years.

The structure also allows for an effective infiltration in other countries.

The 'ndrangheta has developed "like al-Qaeda, with a similar tentacular structure," and without a centralized leadership, the report says.

Feuds between powerful families have proven deadly.

The past summer's slayings of six Italians in Germany were seen as a family vendetta and the latest chapter of the long-standing feud between rival clans.

Last week, the boss of what investigators described as a "ferocious" family in the 'ndrangheta syndicate, Pasquale Condello, was arrested in the regional capital, Reggio Calabria. The man had been on the run for 20 years and was on the police list of Italy's most dangerous fugitives.

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