A large table with men seated around it in silence. One man does all the talking. “You can work in everything - extortion, cocaine, heroin,” he says. That man is mob boss Antonio Nesci, and every word he utters is captured on video giving it the feel of a Hollywood movie. Only this is real life. Swiss police just caught a meeting of the notorious ‘Ndrangheta on tape (video below).
The video is the big red cherry on top of “Helvetia”, a successful two-year investigation by Italian and Swiss police into the international operations of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta. Last week, 18 individuals were placed under arrest in Switzerland and Italy, including Antonio Nesci, boss of the ‘Ndrangheta branch operating in the Swiss town of Frauenfeld.
“Holy Jesus. The ‘society’ has been here, if I am not mistaken, for 37, 38 years… Since the 1970s, how many years is that… 40 years?,” Nesci tells the men around him. His ‘Ndrangheta ‘local’ has been operating in Frauenfeld for 40 years. It must come as a surprise to many of the 23,000 inhabitants of the small town located in the north of Switzerland.
Though, if they didn’t know they had hardcore mobsters living and working among them, it is not such a surprise as the ‘Ndrangheta does its best to keep a low profile. As Nesci explains, “For those who know us well, we are clean, clean, clean, it took us years to build this reputation. We made our reputation… You young ones should do it so that the ‘society’ is respected. I repeat again, the ‘society’ of Frauenfeld is one of honor, wisdom, and dignity.”
Hollow words coming from a Mafia boss. When it comes to keeping things quiet and honorable the ‘Ndrangheta isn’t the best role model. In 2007, six men were shot to death in the German city of Duisburg. They had just celebrated a birthday party at an Italian restaurant. As they exited several assassins were waiting for them. All six were killed in a hail of bullets. The shooting was later traced back to a beef between two ‘Ndrangheta clans in their hometowns in Calabria, Italy.
Not exactly “honor, wisdom, and dignity.” At least, to most of society’s standards. Of course the ‘Ndrangheta is a different ‘society’.
This becomes evident once all the men are seated around the table and Nesci kicks off the initiation ceremony. “Our knights, Osso, Mastrosso, and Carcagnosso were baptized in Spain and departed for Naples, disembarked in Sicily, and stopped in Calabria. As they were baptized with irons and chains, with irons and chains I will baptize you,” he says.
The knights Nesci is speaking about are part of a myth that is central to the ‘Ndrangheta code. Mafia experts Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards write that Osso, Mastrosso, and Carcagnosso were three brothers belonging to the Montalbano family of Spanish nobility. “The three brothers severely punished an aristocrat who had raped their sister and were banished from Spain. After navigating far and wide in the Mediterranean, they reached Palermo, and decided to spend the rest of their lives in Italy, defending the weak against the arrogant and overbearing. According to the myth, Osso remained in Palermo, where he founded the Sicilian Mafia. Mastrosso left for Naples to begin the Camorra, and Carcagnosso settled in Calabria and founded the Picciotteria, which later evolved into what is known today as the ‘Ndrangheta.”
During the meeting several men were added to that long tradition. As Nesci kindly reminds them, “I would like you to remember the rules that have existed since 1830. The rules remind you of the obligations and social regulations that come from the organization.”
So, about those rules. “You can work in everything – extortion, cocaine, heroin,” Nesci says. “There’s everything. 10 kilos, 20 kilos a day, I will bring it to you personally but I don’t want to know any more about it.”
When discussion murder, Nesci explained they had their own specific people to handle that task. “if we are talking about murder, extortion, we gather those three, four, five, as I have always said.”
Italian police allege that Nesci reported to the head of the Fabrizia clan, Giuseppe Antonio Primerano. All ‘Ndrangheta locals located outside Italy answer to the bosses back home in Calabria, Italy. According to authorities Nesci had obtained permission from Primerano to expand his operations to the German city of Singen, located 31 kilometers from Frauenfeld.
Update - Dec 5, 2014:
Italian police have arrested five other ‘Ndrangheta members with suspected links to criminal activity in Frauenfeld on December 5. Among the arrested men is the leader of the Calabrian Giffone family. The Giffone family is said to be closely linked to the Fabrizia clan, some of whose members live and operate in Frauenfeld.
Update - Oct 26, 2015:
Two Italians who took part in the secretly taped 'Ndrangheta meeting were sentenced to 12 and 14 years in prison by the Reggio di Calabria court in Italy for Mafia membership. One of them is appealing the verdict. His lawyer Giovanni Vecchio argues that the group of men only met to play cards and the oaths were said as a joke.
Watch the video here:
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