Postcard from... Rome


Michael Day
Friday 10 January 2014 01:00

’Ndrangheta, the Italian crime syndicate that has overtaken Cosa Nostra as Italy’s most powerful mafia organisation, moves in mysterious ways.

But at least one of its shadowy methods has become clearer with investigators deciphering a secret language it uses to initiate would be members.

The strange code – which looks like a mix of Chinese and Aramaic – was discovered during an investigation into the killing a year ago of Vincenzo Femia, a drug dealer linked to ’ndrangheta’s San Luca clan.

Investigators believe that new members of the clan are made to recite the strange text, which is rich in symbolism and appears to talk in riddles.

Police were at first baffled by the strange language. But La Repubblica reports how a flash of inspiration by two detectives with a passion for crosswords, allowed them correctly to identify the letter “C”. This paved the way for the slow deciphering of the code.

The discovery of the document in Rome, where Femia was murdered in the process of a major drugs deal, underlines how the crime syndicate has spread well beyond its origins in the southern region of Calabria. Its domination of Europe’s cocaine trade has seen its estimated turnover exceed €30bn a year. It had connection across Europe and in the Americas.

A series of executions in the streets of Rome in the past few years has also underlined how the mafia groups have moved from their traditional stamping grounds in Sicily, Campania and Calabria, bringing them into conflict with Rome’s own crime outfit the Magliana Gang.

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