He was the boss of bosses that no one thought existed. But yesterday, Domenico Oppedisano, 81, was jailed for 10 years for his pivotal role in 'Ndrangheta, Europe's most feared and powerful crime syndicate.
Two years ago, surveillance of the Calabrian Mafia revealed Oppedisano's kingpin role in the group, which until that point had been viewed as a loose network of regional crime families.
The existence of a supreme boss indicated that, contrary to previous intelligence, Calabrian mobsters were organised in a pyramidal structure similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia. Soon after, Oppedisano was captured hiding out in a small coastal town in the south.
Oppedisano's sentence followed a trial in the regional capital of Reggio Calabria. More than 90 'Ndrangheta members were also jailed and 34 people acquitted. Many were convicted of Mafia association.
The Reggio Calabria prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, called on Oppedisano to be jailed for 20 years. 'Ndrangheta, which has an estimated £40bn turnover thanks largely to its dominant role in Europe's cocaine trade, has proved tighter-knit than Sicily's Cosa Nostra. The emergence, however, of high-ranking informers threatens to land other serious blows on the Calabrian group.
Former 'Ndrangheta members, including Antonino Lo Giudice and Roberto Moio, are thought to have begun revealing some of the shadowy group's secrets. Some observers have seen 'Ndrangheta's response – death threats against magistrates and bombs left in front of Calabrian courts – as a sign of desperation.
But the crime syndicate's size and the scope of its connections across Italy and beyond suggest it is far from defeated. Earlier this week, authorities in the south of France warned that the notoriously violent group, which sprang to public attention after the murders of six members outside a pizza restaurant in Duisburg, Germany, in 2007, was colonising France's Côte d'Azur, with bases in Nice and Menton.Reuse content