In the early hours of 3 May, 10 countries took action against the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta. More than 130 people were arrested, 30 of them in Germany.
Prosecutors spoke of the biggest international strike so far, against one of the most notorious mafia organisations worldwide.
The ‘Ndrangheta operate by forming international networks from Europe to South America, profiting from ventures including drug trafficking, the illegal weapons trade, fraud and tax evasion. Proceeds are laundered through small businesses such as restaurants, ice-cream shops and car washes.
Dr Zora Hauser, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department, is an expert on the ‘Ndrangheta, having studied their expansion into new territories over the second half of the 20th Century, particularly focusing on Germany.
Following the recent arrests - the result of a three-year investigation - Zora has spoken to numerous news outlets about whether this operation will have any real impact on the ‘Ndrangheta.
In an interview with Swiss newspaper NZZ, she explained why the fight against this crime syndicate remains such a challenge.
The 'Ndrangheta is organised as a confederation of different mafia clans. Each is independent, has a boss and controls a specific territory. It is estimated that there are at least 150 clans with a total of around 10,000 members.
While part of the same organisation, they also compete - if one is eliminated, another takes its place.
Therefore, one single investigation cannot damage the 'Ndrangheta in the long term. It is incredibly difficult to take systematic action against such a horizontally structured organisation.
Repression can only be part of wider strategy that recognised the mafia for what it is: a social and political phenomenon.”
Speaking to German news show ZDF heute journal, Zora revealed the conditions that have made countries like Germany such attractive locations for organised crime. "Germany makes it easy for the 'Ndrangheta to operate more or less undisturbed," she said. "It is relatively easy to launder money and the fight against the mafia is not a political priority."
The aim of mafias is to integrate into society and search for proximity to local politicians, Zora explained in an interview with Die Zeit:
Mafia organisations tend to settle in rural areas or small towns. For one thing, there is less competition there with other criminal organisations that might be rivals in the big cities. Moreover, it is easier to integrate and remain under the radar.
Last but not least, mafia groups seek proximity to politics. And that is much more difficult in a big city than in a village.
Proximity does not necessarily mean there is direct corruption in the sense that envelopes of money are handed over.
The phenomenon is better understood as a convergence of interests between local businessmen – who happen to be affiliated to a criminal organisation – and local politicians.”
Zora is currently in the process of turning her research on the ‘Ndrangheta into a book. You can get in touch with her via email.