Unprecedented hit in Germany shows how local organized crime group has gone global

17th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

17 August 2007, ROME (AP) -- The unprecedented settling of scores in Germany between rival clans of Italy's 'ndrangheta crime syndicate shows how the group's small-town business and vendettas have gone global, analysts and Italian officials said.

17 August 2007

ROME (AP) -- The unprecedented settling of scores in Germany between rival clans of Italy's 'ndrangheta crime syndicate shows how the group's small-town business and vendettas have gone global, analysts and Italian officials said.

Six Italians were gunned down execution-style Wednesday in the industrial German city of Duisburg in what officials said was the latest chapter in a local 'ndrangheta feud that erupted in the tiny Calabrian town of San Luca in 1991.

"What happened was a qualitative leap" in the 'ndgrangheta's operations, Deputy Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. "That this feud finds a second chapter outside the territory in which these clans move, and beyond the national borders," is unprecedented and worrisome.

The Interior Ministry said earlier this year that the 'ndrangheta had "confirmed itself as the most competitive criminal" movement in Italy and one that was able to exert the "most destructive potential" of all the other crime syndicates, more dangerous than Sicily's Cosa Nostra or the Neapolitan Camorra.

But to date, their vendettas have stayed local -- primarily because they have been able to carry them out with impunity in Calabria, said Alexander Stille, author of the 1995 book "Excellent Cadavers," about the Sicilian Mafia.

"Generally it's a lot easier to get away with murder in Calabria than in Germany," he said in a phone interview from New York. "When the 'ndrangheta kill people in Calabria, they do it in broad daylight in a crowded place and there are no witnesses."

The 'ndrangheta's business, however, went global years ago -- and Italian investigators said Wednesday's massacre may have been more about financial turf than a settling of local Italian scores.

"With the 'ndrangheta, the motives aren't only about honor but above all interests -- money laundering and drug trafficking," assistant police chief Nicola Cavaliere told RAI state television.

Minniti said the 'ndrangheta's presence in Germany was well known and that for some time German police and prosecutors had been monitoring its economic activity in Germany.

Stille said that many 'ndrangheta clans had started out as poor, rural extortion groups with a purely local range, which got rich suddenly in the 1980s and 1990s because they were able to divert government money destined for development projects like a new steel plant, port and power plant.

"These groups went from being small-time local hoods into being crime groups in the same category as the Sicilians and the Neapolitans, and so it's only inevitable that as they began to make more money and have more money to reinvest, they were going to look overseas," he said.

The San Luca feud erupted in 1991 after members of one of the clans threw eggs toward members of the other during Carnival celebrations, leading to a fight, said Luciano Rindona, police commissioner of Bovalino, which covers the town of San Luca.

Since then, some 15 people have been killed, including Wednesday's victims, he said.

The feud, which pitted the Nirta-Strangio families against the Pelle-Romeo families, cooled between 2000 and 2006, but erupted again when the wife of one of the presumed heads of the clan, Maria Strangio, was killed on Christmas in 2006, Rindona said. The last killing before Wednesday's shooting was Aug. 3, with the ambush slaying of Antonio Giorgi.

Wednesday's massacre was a settling of scores, with the Pelle-Romeos the victims, he said. Investigators said the date of the massacre appeared to be no coincidence: Wednesday is the feast of the Assumption, a major Catholic feast day -- like Christmas -- though this one honoring the Virgin Mary.

Stille said traditionally, women have been spared from mob hits, and that the slaying of Maria Strangio may have represented an infraction of traditional Mafia rules "that may have led the rival clan in this case to strike where they could and not worry about either breaking the rules or the greater risk involved in doing something like this overseas."

However, Italy's national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Piero Grasso, said there were no rules with the 'ndrangheta, unlike the Sicilian Mafia, which had a clear, hierarchical structure that allowed it to impose a unified strategy.

"For the 'ndrangheta, it's more difficult because it is made up of clans and families, which, when they fight they don't adhere to any rules," Grasso told Sky TG24. "Organized crime in Calabria tried to create some unity, but we see that these results weren't achieved."

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said the focus now must be on preventing a retaliatory strike in Calabria. Police set up roadblocks late Wednesday on the main roads into San Luca, and carabinieri officers patrolled the otherwise deserted streets of the hill town, the ANSA news agency said.


Subject: German news, mafia, Italy

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