In Search of the Ndrangheta, Italy’s Most Powerful Mafia
A gripping portrait of the largest criminal multinational in the world
Mafiopoli: a town or society run by the mafia (neologism from the Italian word ‘mafia’ and the Ancient Greek ‘polis’ for city or community).
In 2006, journalist Sanne de Boer moves from Amsterdam to a sleepy seaside village in the southern Italian province of Calabria. She relishes the slower pace of life, the overwhelming hospitality of her neighbours, the beautiful nature and wonderful food – until one night a car in her street is set alight. Its owner, a local government worker, refuses to call the police and quits her job. When a man is subsequently shot dead in the village, it turns out he was a member of the Ndrangheta. De Boer, full of questions but met with silence, goes looking for answers in what she soon discovers is the heart of the most powerful mafia in the world.
From operating in the shadow of the Sicilian and Neapolitan mafias during the 1970s and 80s, the Ndrangheta – named after the Greek for ‘society of men of honour’ – are now responsible for 80% of the cocaine entering Europe. They are a multi-national organization active in 32 countries (17 of which in Europe) and silently embedded at nearly every level of society, mixing blue- and white-collar crime in the grey area between legal and illegal business. Although mass-arrests have been made in recent years, the full extent of the mafia’s political and financial influence is still unknown.
How could such a seemingly unstoppable criminal multinational develop in this remote and beautiful region of Italy? What makes this network of mafia clans so old-fashioned and provincial on the one hand, and so global and modern on the other? What has been the impact of Covid-19 on their business? Building on extensive archival research, De Boer uncovers the gripping stories of her neighbours, local business owners, fearless journalists, mafia prosecutors and state witnesses. She exposes the brutal reality of a highly sophisticated mafia that is gaining more and more ground.
Mixing memoir and true crime, Mafiopoli is both a unique personal story about De Boer’s own experience, living alongside members of the Ndrangheta clans, and a wide-ranging journalistic account, unveiling the mafia’s extensive network throughout Italy and the rest of the world, including Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Though many Europeans might believe otherwise, long gone are the days when the Ndrangheta were just some far-off Italian phenomena. Their nefarious influence outside of Italy will only continue to grow as long as they are left to work undetected.