The ’Ndrangheta – based in the southern region of Calabria, the toe of the Italy – is reputed to be one of the richest and most feared criminal organisations in the world. A study by the Demoskopita Research Institute in 2013 estimated its financial strength as more than that of Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined, with an annual turnover of €53bn (£44bn).
Its success lies in its ability to connect the underworld with the upper world, where often the “upper world” stands for the financial district of the City of London which they use as an investment and money-laundering base, according to Nicola Gratteri, the state prosecutor. It has established companies in the UK with the alleged purpose of simulating legitimate economic activity.
A 2019 report from Italy’s Anti-mafia Investigative Directorate claimed that criminal organisations laundered billions of pounds each year through UK banks.
Giuseppe Lombardo, the deputy prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, warned that “in a phase of very scarce global liquidity, the goal of the ’Ndrangheta will be to create a banking system parallel to the legal one”, as all the eyes are on the City.
Bosses of the Nirta clan had entrusted the management of their profits to a man who created companies in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Romania which after a few years, all of these companies were systematically transferred to the UK.
Col Claudio Petrozziello of Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, which monitors illicit flows of capital, said ’Ndrangheta clans in the UK had no interest in controlling the local territory, just the exploitation of the financial system.
“It’s not that there are no rules in London,” he said. “The problem is that the risk of mafia infiltration is underestimated.”
The ’Ndrangheta are as a middle-class phenomenon, which took advantage of Masonic lodges to manage the profits generated by international drugs trafficking. The grand master of the Grande Oriente d’Italia (GOI) lodge, Giuliano di Bernardo, claimed in trials in 2014 and 2019 that linked the ’Ndrangheta with terrorism that he had a discussion with the Duke of Kent, the grand master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), in the early 1990s over infiltration of the Italian lodges in the south of the country by criminal clans.