Calabria and Toronto
York Regional Police, north of Toronto, Canada, made a major money laundering bust last week against the ‘Ndrangheta, arresting several of its alleged members including its alleged leader, Angelo Figliomeni.
Figliomeni is charged with money laundering, directing a criminal organization and fraud. Another eight alleged associates of Figliomeni were arrested on various charges including loan sharking and illegal gambling.
York Regional Police executed 48 warrants and seized $35 million in alleged proceeds of crime including 23 luxury cars, including 5 Ferraris, a $7,000 bottle of scotch, 27 houses and $2 million in cash and jewellery. They also seized gaming machines and ATMs. Police also executed warrants against 11 illegal gambling venues allegedly controlled by the ‘Ndrangheta.
Prior to his arrest, the police allege that Figliomeni and his associates were laundering proceeds of crime at Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation casinos around Toronto and through real estate companies, accountants and financial services companies. Police believe they laundered $70 million in the last few years in Toronto.
Police in Italy made simultaneous arrests of ‘Ndrangheta from Siderno, Calabria, while York Regional Police made their arrests.
The Italian police describe the links and connections between the ‘Ndrangheta families in Calabria and those in Toronto as a “criminal Blockchain.” It’s a fitting description on some level but the ‘Ndrangheta are anything but transparent or easily traceable.
About the ‘Ndrangheta
The ‘Ndrangheta are a different breed of transnational criminal organization. They are supply chain management experts which allows them to control much of the world’s cocaine transportation and its supply chain into various countries, but they typically do not manufacture drugs or deal at the street level. They control large ports in the EU, which allows them to import cocaine in bulk.
In the EU and in third world countries they are known to infiltrate, bribe and extort law enforcement and other legal gate-keepers for access and to avoid prosecution. A recent report from an Italian Court of Appeal found that the ‘Ndrangheta has infiltrated all parts of the economy and government in Italy.
They are extremely secretive and usually only allow entry to those of ‘Ndrangheta blood, which means those whose family originate from Calabria.
Italian police say that much of Calabria is ‘Ndrangheta and anyone from that region immigrating to other countries is in furtherance of the expansion of the family criminal enterprise (the family being the ‘Ndrangheta).
The ‘Ndrangheta are wealthy – their revenues are estimated to be $53 billion per year.
Although they have been around for 150 years in Italy, it was the US and not Italy that took the first step towards stopping the ‘Ndrangheta from a money laundering legal perspective. In 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury added the ‘Ndrangheta to the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits dealing with their cash or property.
Two years later, in March 2010, Italy designated the ‘Ndrangheta as a mafia organization for the purposes of Italian law.
The ‘Ndrangheta take pains to appear to be law abiding members of society and while they are secretive, so too are their operations. They have secret members (wealthy professionals) who launder their proceeds of crime and they operate through corporate entities so that the proceeds of crime flow through company bank accounts.