Italy’s biggest mafia hunter warns of Australian crime links
The ‘Ndrangheta has a reputation as one of the richest and most feared criminal organizations in the world. Gratteri says this so-called “maxi trial” reveals the group’s secrets as it moves from lower abdomen operations to upper world operations.
From its crude origins in Calabria, ‘Ndrangheta has built a global cocaine empire with an estimated annual turnover of over $ 70 billion, more than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.
Gangsters are turning from armed kidnappers into corrupt businessmen with a penchant for bitcoin. Gratteri says they are now recruiting officials, politicians and professionals to cover their tracks.
“We are discovering the ‘Ndrangheta-political relationship, the’ Ndrangheta-public administration relationship, the ‘Ndrangheta-world of professions’ relationship,” he said.
The trial centers on the powerful Mancuso clan of Calabria, but Gratteri hopes it will have global ramifications by revealing the new face of the region’s so-called “Honored Society”, aiding law enforcement in Europe, in the United States, Canada and Australia to fight organized crime.
“We know, for example, that the ‘Ndrangheta has bitcoin and is therefore ready to pay in bitcoin … The particularity of this investigation is that in proportion to the number of people arrested, there are a large number of white-collar workers, acting in a gray area of the trades world.
Gratteri warns that the ‘Ndrangheta uses the same tactics in Australia – laundering drug money in legitimate businesses and mingling with politicians and professionals.
Gratteri urges people to boycott companies known to be run by mobsters and warns politicians to think carefully about their relationships.
While the Calabrian Mafia is best known for its links to high-profile crimes, such as the discovery of 15 million ecstasy pills smuggled into Melbourne in boxes of tomatoes in 2007, the attorney general says one one of Australia’s biggest problems today is Mafia’s ties to politics. .
“I remember an investigation in which an Australian [government] The minister was involved because he did not fully understand that the people who appeared in costume were in fact members of the ‘Ndrangheta. There was even an Australian minister who wrote that this person was a decent person, but in reality this person was a trafficker.
Political missteps can be costly.
Victoria’s Opposition Leader Matthew Guy faced backlash after becoming involved in the infamous ‘lobster with suspected gangster’ scandal in 2017, when the Liberal leader dined on lobster and wine de Grange with alleged Mafia figure Tony Madafferi.
Madafferi is widely accused of being a high profile organized crime figure, but he has never been charged or convicted and vigorously denies any allegations.
Former Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone was forced to defend her controversial decision to grant a visa to Tony’s brother, Francesco “Frank” Madafferi in 2005. The decision sparked a 16-year saga by the forces of the United Nations. order to revoke his residence visa for his alleged involvement in criminal activities. in Australia.
The jailed drug dealer is currently appealing his conviction for his role in the “Tins of Tomato” drug union. If unsuccessful, he could be sent back to Calabria in the coming months.
Gratteri says phone interceptions over the past decade have even exposed the influence of the Mafia on the municipal elections.
“In an investigation I conducted a few years ago, we listened to interceptions where a member of Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta spoke to a member of Australia’s’ Ndrangheta to decide which mayoral candidate to support in a Australian city. This means that there is a base of ‘Ndrangheta that can control and move bundles of votes, thousands of votes.
Luigi Bonaventura is a former mafia boss turned police informant and one of the key witnesses in the trial. He blames Australia’s lack of specific anti-Mafia legislation for allowing the ‘Ndrangheta to take hold.
“The ‘Ndrangheta is very strong in Australia,” Bonaventura says. “Let’s say it’s a place that has allowed the ‘Ndrangheta to do a lot of things, and I think it has strong ramifications. It has severely infected part of the fabric of Australian society. “
Coming from a ‘Ndrangheta family, Bonaventura admits to having committed murders, kidnappings and thefts before agreeing to collaborate with the police, to turn against organized crime and his own family.
“The ‘Ndrangheta uses corruption a lot as a tool, nowadays it uses corruption more as a tool than guns,” he said. “Often the ‘Ndrangheta does business along a thin line between what is lawful and what is not. He manages to progress in the normal working world, thanks to his influence, thanks to his pressure, so it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a company infiltrated by the Mafia from one which is not.
Bonaventura believes that Australian law enforcement should rely more on police informants and is ready to provide information on the infiltration of mafia cells and on understanding the methods of operation.
“A serious justice worker can help see what cameras don’t notice, can help listen and understand what wiretapping can’t,” he says.
Like Gratteri, Bonaventura is constantly in danger of reprisals. He has now given evidence leading to hundreds of convictions.
Unlike Gratteri, he has no police protection. Nervous and restless, he won’t say where he’s from and covers his face with a bandana during the interview.
“I’m not afraid to die for myself. My biggest fear isn’t for me, it’s for my family, ”he says.
After the last Italian “maxi” trial, which targeted the Sicilian Mafia in the 1980s, two prosecutors were assassinated.
Gratteri has been described as a “walking dead man” from the day he took the lead.
But he says that won’t stop him. He won’t even consider leaving. He has a job to do.
“I think I am doing something important for thousands of people here in Calabria and beyond. I am their last resort, I am the last hope, I cannot betray these people.
Watch Nine’s exclusive interview with Gratteri at www.9news.com.au