Transatlantic Police Investigation Dismantles Network of US and Italian Mafia Families

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 08:37

While news that the Miami villa of notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone is on the market for $8.5 million (photo at end) gets the attention of lovers of Mafia-based Hollywood movies, in the real world a transatlantic Italian Police-FBI joint operation has dismantled a major criminal plan. The operation, named "New Bridge", placed a total of 40 people under investigation and led to a series of arrests which busted a plan to set up new trafficking routes for drugs, weapons and laundered money between Italy, the US, Canada, and Latin America. The new ramified logistical network was being developed by one of Cosa Nostra's historic five families in New York, Gambino, in collaboration with the Ursino clan of the Calabrian mafia, or 'Ndrangheta. The Gambinos brought their contacts within the South American drug cartels to the table while the Ursinos contributed their organizational capacity and control of the territory. The two-year transatlantic investigation thwarted the delivery of 500kg of cocaine hidden in cans of pineapple, coconut and frozen fish from Guyana which were to have arrived to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro. Italian press agency ANSA, reports the statement of Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri: "This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the 'Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra". As a matter of fact, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, is now one of the most threatening criminal organizations in the world. They are known to have established operations in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, US, Colombia and Australia, where 'Ndrangheta turf wars have gained headlines. In Italy a string of well publicized events that show the growing importance of this criminal organization. On the 15th of August 2007 six clan members were gunned down in Duisburg, Germany, in a feud that began as a wedding spat in 1991; a string of businesses linked to the Calabrian Mob have been seized in the last few years all over northern Italy; the Lombardy regional councillor was placed under investigation for buying votes from transplanted clans; the town councils of Bordighera and Ventimiglia, on the Italian Riviera, were dissolved for 'Ndrangheta infiltration in 2011 and 2012, while in Rome, the 'Ndrangheta has laundered money in a string of plum properties. The "New Bridge" blitz came in the wake of a similar joint Italy-US operation against the Sicilian Mafia in 2008 that bust a drug trafficking ring involving Cosa Nostra families in Palermo and members of the Gambino family in New York. It is important to note that the success of such operations rests on the work and determination of Sicilian Magistrate Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Mafia in 1992. In the 1980s, Falcone introduced an innovative investigative technique while working to the 'Spatola investigation', seizing bank records to follow "the money trail" created by heroin deals, becoming one of the first Sicilian magistrates to establish working relationships with colleagues from other countries. By the end of 1980 he was working directly with the U.S. Justice Department which resulted in some of the biggest international law enforcement operations in history such as the Pizza Connection. It is this early work by Falcone that now renders operations such as "New Bridge" possible. Finally, in case you were wondering here is Al Capone's villa in Miami: Al Capone Villa Miami