By Julia Brock, Scripps College Class of 2022
INTERPOL’s Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN) has rounded up six fugitives in Albania, Argentina, and Costa Rica, following intelligence tips gathered in an operation targeting the ‘Ndrangheta in November 2019. The news was reported on INTERPOL’s website on July 23, 2020.
Last year’s “Operation Magma 2007” targeted individuals wanted for association with the ‘Ndrangheta, as well as drug trafficking and illegal weapons possession. It resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects across Italy. It was conducted by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza and Direzione Centrale Servizi Antidroga, and coordinated by the Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia in Reggio Calabria.
Three of the fugitives were arrested in Buenos Aires on 21 July, 2020, while a simultaneous operation in Tirana, Albania led to the capture of a fourth ‘Ndrangheta-linked fugitive. The next day, a fifth fugitive was arrested in Costa Rica. A sixth fugitive who had avoided capture in Operation Magma 2007 was arrested in Albania last May.
Combined, the operations netted 400 kg of cocaine, 30 kg of hashish, 15 kg of marijuana, an automatic assault rifle, three semiautomatic pistols, a silencer and ammunition of various calibers.
The operation also led to the dismantle and arrest of all top family members of the Bellocco family clan, one of many in the ‘Ndranghata. The Bellocco clan was involved in importing South American cocaine by boat into Italy, particularly from Argentina and Costa Rica. For this, the group depended on emissaries who travelled frequently between the Bellocco clan’s Calabrian base and supplier countries.
The ‘Ndrangheta is the most extensive, wealthiest, and powerful criminal organization in the world. “Ndrangheta” itself means loyalty or courage and is of Greek origin. The organization specializes in kidnapping and political corruption, but have also been linked to drug trafficking, bombings, murder, counterfeiting, gambling, frauds, theft, labor racketeering, loansharking, and alien smuggling. The organization has acquired direct or indirect control of companies operating across all areas of society, including construction, transportation, import and export, and more. They also utilize the deepweb and Darknet to conduct illicit commerce transactions.
The ‘Ndrangheta was formed in the 1980s when a group of Sicilians, banished from the island, settled in Calabria and formed small criminal organizations based on family ties, primarily blood relationships and marriages. It has since expanded into an international organization and is present in 32 countries worldwide. Its tight-knit, clan-like structure makes it difficult to penetrate.
INTERPOL and Organized Crime Prevention
INTERPOL’s Organized Crime unit’s goal is to stop organized crime organizations like the ‘Ndrangheta from operating. The unit works hand in hand with all of INTERPOL’s police services to identify major figures involved in transnational crime, the associated criminal networks and their activities.
The unit also conducts criminal analysis based on intelligence provided by our member countries and partners, such as biometrics, images and known associations. These methods allow INTERPOL to have a detailed understanding of the crime organizations they are focusing and proves crucial to finding connections between organizers, financiers, distributors, and corrupt officials.
I-CAN, an Italian and INTERPOL initiative targeting the ‘Ndrangheta, was launched in January 2020. The ultimate goal of the I-CAN project is to enhance the ability of law enforcement worldwide to more effectively identify and combat mafia-type organizations.It is funded by the Italian Department of Public Service and focuses on the ‘Ndrangheta.
I-CAN is developed across three pillars:
- Content – Building on Italy’s direct experience and knowledge of the threat posed by Ndrangheta, its structure and how it operates.
- Access – Making this vital policing information available to the targeted countries, in order to identify patterns, trends and potential targets for law enforcement.
- Action – Coordination of joint investigations with national law enforcement to identify and arrest individuals wanted in connection with Ndrangheta-linked activities.