Olive groves land a mafia boss in jail: Police believe they have a watertight case against a leader of a Calabrian criminal clan, writes Patricia Clough from Rome

DON Saverio Mammoliti, 50, one of the leading bosses of the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, playboy with a weakness for Jaguars; suspected international drug tsar; terror of local landowners and alleged usurper of 750 acres of the richest land in southern Italy, is behind bars.

Don Saro, as he is known with fear and respect around Castellace on the fertile plain of Gioia Tauro, was arrested on Monday with his wife, Maria Caterina, whom he married when she was 13. Unlike the traditional silent, homebody mafia wives, she allegedly helped run the family 'business'. Simultaneously the carabinieri rounded up Don Saro's brother, a nephew, three brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law in their seaside villas, as well as two non-related members of the clan. An eleventh member, alleged to be its hit man, is already in prison. A 12th got away.

Don Saro's activities have filled endless police files since he took over as head of the family at the age of 12, when his father, Francesco, was killed in a blood feud with a rival clan. The 'Ndrangheta families are involved in similar crimes to those of the Sicilian Mafia, but they appear to be less co- ordinated and have fewer international links.

Don Saro was believed to have helped plot the kidnapping of Paul Getty III, whose ear was chopped off and sent to the family to induce his grandfather, the oil multi-millionaire, to produce a ransom. But Mr Mammoliti was acquitted at his trial.

The FBI's Narcotics Bureau, as well as the Italian authorities, suspect him of large-scale heroin and cocaine trafficking; there have been probes into dubious public works contracts and hotel construction. But what put Don Saro and his family behind bars was the manner in which they are said to have acquired 750 acres of the most fertile and lucrative land - much of it olive and citrus groves - worth a total of around pounds 7m.

It is alleged that local landowners were 'persuaded' to sell them the land at giveaway prices, or to rent it to them for next to nothing - or that the clan simply fenced it in and treated it as its own.

The land was allegedly registered in the name of one of the arrested men, Francesco Ventrice, 67, a farm labourer who on paper runs three companies with a total annual turnover of pounds 3m a year and 15 different bank accounts.

Charges include allegations of one murder; six bomb attacks; 19 arson attacks; the destruction of 1,100 olive, citrus and kiwi trees in 15 separate incursions, and 14 instances of agricultural equipment stolen. And one murder. Baron Antonio Carlo Cordopatri was shot dead on 10 July last year. Baron Antonio was a southern aristocrat from an ancient landowning family. He was also something of a black sheep of his family, a bon viveur, a gambler, and was alleged at one stage to have joined the Mammolitis in extorting money from his own cousins.

But Baron Antonio was not about to hand over his ancestral land. Local labourers were made to stop working for him. Twice he was shot at, but he remained firm. Finally he was shot dead and Salvatore la Rosa, 24, the presumed clan member already in jail, was arrested almost immediately, allegedly with the gun still in his hand.

Don Saro, however, is not accustomed to staying behind bars for long. He once escaped from jail and spent many extremely comfortable years supposedly on the run but in fact managing the clan very close to home - and so cocksure that he got married in the church next door to the local carabinieri headquarters.

He has had his property seized then handed back. He has been sentenced to 33 years in jail, only to have it quashed by the Supreme Court. He seems to have, like many Mafia bosses, friends in high places: the telephone numbers of the prime minister's office and various Rome ministries were once found in his possession.

Two months ago he and some of his clan were rounded up after parallel investigations by the police - a glowing example of the lack of co-ordination between the country's various forces - but released a couple of days later.

But the Calabrian carabinieri believe they have a watertight case. For months, Major Paolo Fabiano and Captain Mario Paschetta have pored over documents in the public records offices and notaries' files. They ended up, according to a spokesman, with 'heaps of documentary proof'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine