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The Camorra (Italian: [kaˈmɔrra]; Neapolitan: [kaˈmorrə]) is an Italian Mafia-type[2] crime syndicate, or secret society, which arose in the region of Campania and its capital Naples. It is one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, dating back to the 17th century. Unlike the pyramidal structure of the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra's organizational structure is more horizontal than vertical. Consequently, individual Camorra clans act independently of each other, and are more prone to feuding among themselves.


The origins of the Camorra are not entirely clear. It may date back to the 17th century[3] as a direct Italian descendant of a Spanish secret society, the Garduña, founded in 1417. Officials of the Kingdom of Naples may have introduced the organisation to the area, or it may have grown gradually out of small criminal gangs operating in Neapolitan society near the end of the 18th century.[4] However, recent historical research in Spain suggests that the Garduña never really existed and was based on a fictional 19th-century book.[5]

The first official use of the word dates from 1735, when a royal decree authorised the establishment of eight gambling houses in Naples. The word is likely a blend, or portmanteau, of "capo" (boss) and a Neapolitan street game, the "morra".[4][6] (In this game, two persons wave their hands simultaneously, while a crowd of surrounding gamblers guess, in chorus, at the total number of fingers exposed by the principal players.)[7] This activity was prohibited by the local government, and some people started making the players pay for being "protected" against the passing police.[4][8][9]

The Camorra first emerged during the chaotic power vacuum in the years between 1799 and 1815, when the Parthenopean Republic was proclaimed on the wave of the French Revolution and the Bourbon Restoration. The first official mention of the Camorra as an organization dates from 1820, when police records detail a disciplinary meeting of the Camorra, a tribunal known as the Gran Mamma. That year a first written statute, the frieno, was also discovered, indicating a stable organisational structure in the underworld. Another statute was discovered in 1842, including initiation rites and funds set aside for the families of those imprisoned. The organization was also known as the Bella Società Riformata, Società dell'Umirtà or Onorata Società.[10][11]

The evolution into more organized formations indicated a qualitative change: the Camorra and camorristi were no longer local gangs living off theft and extortion; they now had a fixed structure and some kind of hierarchy. Another qualitative leap was the agreement of the liberal opposition and the Camorra, following the defeat in the 1848 revolution. The liberals realized that they needed popular support to overthrow the king. They turned to the Camorra and paid them, the camorristi being the leaders of the city's poor. The new police chief, Liborio Romano, turned to the head of the Camorra, Salvatore De Crescenzo, to maintain order and appointed him as head of the municipal guard.[12] The Camorra effectively had developed into power brokers in a few decades.[10] In 1869, Ciccio Cappuccio was elected as the capintesta (head-in-chief) of the Camorra by the twelve district heads (capintriti), succeeding De Crescenzo after a short interregnum.[13] Nicknamed 'The king of Naples' ('‘o rre 'e Napole) he died in 1892.[14][15]

Following Italian unification in 1861 attempts were made to tackle the Camorra and a series of manhunts were made from 1882 on. The Saredo Inquiry (1900–1901), established to investigate corruption and bad governance in Naples, identified a system of political patronage ran by what the report called the "high Camorra":

The Inquiry introduced the terminology of "high Camorra", with a bourgeois character, but distinct from the plebeian Camorra proper, although both were in close contact through the figure of the intermediary (faccendiere).[18]

However, whether the "high Camorra" was an integral part of the Camorra proper is disputed.[17] Although the inquiry did not prove specific collusion between the Camorra and politics, it brought to light the patronage mechanisms that fueled corruption in the municipality.[16] The society's influence was weakened which was exemplified by the defeat of all of their candidates in the 1901 Naples election. Many camorristi left for the United States in the early 20th century.[20]

The Camorra received another blow with the Cuocolo trial (1911–1912). While the trial was about the murder of the Camorrista Gennaro Cuocolo and his wife, suspected of being police spies, on June 6, 1906, the main investigator, Carabinieri Captain Carlo Fabbroni, transformed it from a murder trial into one against the Camorra as a whole. Fabbroni intended to use the trial to strike the final blow to the Camorra.[21][22] The trial attracted a lot of attention of newspapers and the general public both in Italy as well as in the United States, including by Pathé's Gazette.[23] The hearings began in the spring of 1911 and would continue for twelve months. After a 17-month trial, the often tumultuous proceedings ended with a guilty verdict on July 8, 1912. The defendants, including 27 leading Camorra bosses, were sentenced to a total of 354 years' imprisonment. The main defendant and nominal head of the Camorra, Enrico Alfano, was sentenced to 30 years.[21][24][25][26]

The Camorra was never a coherent whole nor a centralised organization. Instead, it has always been a loose confederation of different, independent groups or families. Each group was bound around kinship ties and controlled economic activities which took place in its particular territory. Each family clan took care of its own business, protected its territory, and sometimes tried to expand at another group's expense. Although not centralized, there was some minimal coordination, to avoid mutual interference. The families competed to maintain a system of checks and balances between equal powers.[27]

One of the Camorra's strategies to gain social prestige is political patronage. The family clans became the preferred interlocutors of local politicians and public officials, because of their grip on the community. In turn, the family bosses used their political sway to assist and protect their clients against the local authorities. Through a mixture of brute force, political status, and social leadership, the Camorra family clans imposed themselves as middlemen between the local community and bureaucrats and politicians at the national level. They granted privileges and protection, and intervened in favour of their clients in return for their silence and connivance against local authorities and the police. With their political connections, the heads of the major Neapolitan families became power brokers in local and national political contexts, providing Neapolitan politicians with broad electoral support, and in return receiving benefits for their constituency.[27]


Compared to the Sicilian Mafia's pyramidal structure, the Camorra has more of a 'horizontal' than a 'vertical' structure.[28] As a result, individual Camorra clans act independently of each other, and are more prone to feuding among themselves. This, however, makes the Camorra more resilient when top leaders are arrested or killed, with new clans and organizations germinating out of the stumps of old ones. As the Galasso clan boss Pasquale Galasso once stated in court; "Campania can get worse because you could cut into a Camorra group, but another ten could emerge from it."[29]

In the 1970s and 1980s Raffaele Cutolo made an attempt to unify the Camorra families in the manner of the Sicilian Mafia, by forming the New Organized Camorra (Nuova Camorra Organizzata or NCO), but this proved unsuccessful. Drive-by shootings by camorristi often result in casualties among the local population, but such episodes are often difficult to investigate because of widespread omertà (code of silence). According to a report from Confesercenti, the second-largest Italian Trade Organization, published on October 22, 2007 in the Corriere della Sera, the Camorra control the milk and fish industries, the coffee trade, and over 2,500 bakeries in Naples.[30]

In 1983, Italian law enforcement estimated that there were only about a dozen Camorra clans. By 1987, the number had risen to 26, and in the following year, a report from the Naples flying squad reported their number as 32. Currently, it is estimated there are about 111 Camorra clans and over 6,700 members in Naples and the immediate surroundings.[31] Roberto Saviano, an investigative journalist and author of Gomorra, an exposé of the activities of the Camorra, says that this sprawling network of Camorra clans now dwarfs the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta and southern Italy's other organised gangs, in numbers, in economic power and in ruthless violence.[32]

In 2004 and 2005 the Di Lauro clan and the so-called Scissionisti di Secondigliano fought a bloody feud which came to be known in the Italian press as the Scampia feud. The result was over 100 street killings. At the end of October 2006 a new series of murders took place in Naples between 20 competing clans, that cost 12 lives in 10 days. The Interior Minister Giuliano Amato decided to send more than 1,000 extra police and carabinieri to Naples to fight crime and protect tourists.[33] Despite this, in the following year there were over 120 murders.

In 2001 the businessman Domenico Noviello from Caserta testified against a Camorra extortionist and subsequently received police protection. In 2008 he refused further protection and was killed one week later.[34]

In recent years, various Camorra clans have been allegedly utilizing alliances with Nigerian drug gangs and the Albanian mafia. Augusto La Torre, the former La Torre clan boss who became a pentito, is married to an Albanian woman. It should also be noted that the first foreign pentito, a Tunisian, admitted to being involved with the feared Casalesi clan of Casal di Principe. The first town in which the Camorra sanctioned stewardship by a foreign clan was Castel Volturno, which was given to the Rapaces, clans from Lagos and Benin City in Nigeria. This allowed them to traffic cocaine and women in sexual slavery before sending them across the whole of Europe.[35]

Refuse crisis

Since the mid-1990s, the Camorra has taken over the handling of refuse disposal in the region of Campania, with disastrous results for the environment and the health of the general population. Heavy metals, industrial waste, chemicals and household garbage are frequently mixed together, then dumped near roads and burnt to avoid detection, leading to severe soil and air pollution.

The situation worsened during this period as the Camorra diversified their illegal waste disposal strategy: 1) transporting and dumping hazardous waste in the countryside by truck; 2) dumping waste in illegal caves or holes; 3) mixing toxic waste with textiles to avoid explosions and then burning it; and 4) mixing toxic with urban waste for disposal in landfills and incinerators.[36]

With the assistance of private businessmen known as "stakeholders", the numerous Camorra clans are able to gain massive profits from under-the-table contracts with local, legitimate businesses. These "stakeholders" are able to offer companies highly lucrative deals to remove their waste at a significantly lower price. With little to no overhead, Camorra clans and their associates see very high profit margins. According to author Roberto Saviano, the Camorra uses child labour to drive the waste in for a small price, as they do not complain about the health risks as the older truckers might.

As of June 2007, the region has no serviceable dumping sites, and no alternatives have been found. Together with corrupt local officials and unscrupulous industrialists from all over Italy, the Camorra has created a cartel that has so far proven very difficult for officials to combat.[37]

In November 2013 a demonstration by tens of thousands of people was held in Naples in protest against the pollution caused by the Camorra's control of refuse disposal. Over a twenty-year period, it was alleged, about ten million tonnes of industrial waste had been illegally dumped, with cancers caused by pollution increasing by 40–47%.[38]

Efforts to fight the Camorra

The Camorra has proven to be an extremely difficult organization to fight within Italy. At the first mass trial against the Camorra in 1911–12, Captain Carlo Fabroni of the Carabinieri gave testimony on how complicated it was to successfully prosecute the Camorra: "The Camorrist has no political ideals. He exploits the elections and the elected for gain. The leaders distribute bands throughout the town, and they have recoursed to violence to obtain the vote of the electors for the candidates whom they have determined to support. Those who refuse to vote as instructed are beaten, slashed with knives, or kidnapped. All this is done with assurance of impunity, as the Camorrists will have the protection of successful politicians, who realize that they cannot be chosen to office without paying toll to the Camorra."[39]

The trial that investigated the murder of the camorrista Gennaro Cuocolo was followed with great interest by the newspapers and the general public. It led to the conviction of 27 leading Camorra bosses, who were sentenced to a total of 354 years of imprisonment, including the head of the Camorra at the time, Enrico Alfano.[40][41]

Unlike the Sicilian Mafia, which has a clear hierarchy and a division of interests, the Camorra's activities are much less centralized. This makes the organization much more difficult to combat through crude repression.[42] In Campania, where unemployment is high and opportunities are limited, the Camorra has become an integral part of the fabric of society. It offers a sense of community and provides the youth with jobs. Members are guided in the pursuit of criminal activities, including cigarette smuggling, drug trafficking, and theft.[43]

The government has made an effort to combat the Camorra's criminal activities in Campania. The solution ultimately lies in Italy's ability to offer values, education and work opportunities to the next generation. However, the government has been hard pressed to find funds for promoting long term reforms that are needed to improve the local economic outlook and create jobs.[43] Instead, it has had to rely on limited law enforcement activity in an environment which has a long history of criminal tolerance and acceptance, and is governed by a code of silence or omertà that persists to this day.[44]

Despite the overwhelming magnitude of the problem, law enforcement officials continue their pursuit. The Italian police are coordinating their efforts with Europol at the European level as well as Interpol to conduct special operations against the Camorra. The Carabinieri and the Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) are also fighting criminal activities related to tax evasion, border controls, and money laundering. Prefect Gennaro Monaco, Deputy Chief of Police and Chief of the Section of Criminal Police cites "impressive results" against the Camorra in recent years, yet the Camorra continues to grow in power.[45]

In 1998, police took a leading Camorra figure into custody. Francesco Schiavone was caught hiding in a secret apartment near Naples behind a sliding wall of granite. The mayor of Naples, Antonio Bassolino, compared the arrest to that of Sicilian Mafia chief Salvatore Riina in 1993.[46] Francesco Schiavone is now serving a life sentence after a criminal career which included arms trafficking, bomb attacks, armed robbery, and murder.

Michele Zagaria, a senior member of the Casalesi clan, was arrested in 2011 after eluding police for 16 years. He was found in a secret bunker in the town Casapesenna, near Naples.[47] In 2014, clan boss Mario Riccio was arrested for drug trafficking in the Naples area. Around the same time 29 suspected Camorra members were also arrested in Rome.[48]

The arrests in the Campania region demonstrate that the police are not allowing the Camorra to operate without intervention. However, progress remains slow, and these minor victories have done little to loosen the Camorra's grip on Naples and the surrounding regions.[43]

In 2008, Italian police arrested three members of the Camorra crime syndicate on September 30, 2008. According to Gianfrancesco Siazzu, commander of the Carabinieri police, the three were captured in small villas on the coast of Naples. All three had been on Italy's 100 top most wanted list. Police seized assets valued at over 100 million euros and also weapons, including two AK-47 assault rifles that may have been used in the shooting of six Africans on September 18, 2008. Police found pistols, Carabinieri uniforms and other outfits that were used to disguise members of the operation. During the same week, a separate operation netted 26 additional suspects in Caserta. All were believed to belong to the powerful Camorra crime syndicate that operates in and around Naples. The suspects were charged with extortion and weapons possession. In some cases, the charges also included murder and robbery. Giuseppina Nappa, the 48-year-old wife of a jailed crime boss, was among those arrested. She is believed to be the Camorra's local paymaster.[49]

In November 2018, Italian police announced the arrest of Antonio Orlando, suspected of being a major figure in the Camorra.[50]

In February 2019, Ciro Rinaldi, boss of the Rinaldi clan, was arrested in a house in the region of San Pietro a Patierno, he is accused of the double murder of Raffaele Cepparulo and Ciro Colonna, an innocent victim. Rinaldi is also considered responsible for the murder of Vincenzo De Bernardo, a member of the Mazzarella clan, historically rivals of the Rinaldi clan.[51] In the time of his arrest, his clan was considered one of the most powerful clans of the Camorra, having all the eastern area of the city of Naples under their control and having as allies the powerful Secondigliano Alliance.[52][53]

In March 2019, Marco Di Lauro, the second most wanted man in Italy, was arrested after spending 14 years on the run. He is the fourth son of ex-Camorra boss Paolo Di Lauro. In 2010, an informant said that he was responsible for at least four murders.[54]

In June 2019, the Italian police arrested more than 120 members of the Secondigliano Alliance, the alliance created by the Licciardi, Contini and Mallardo clans, in an anti-Camorra operation. The police also confiscated €130 million. Among those who were arrested were the wives of the bosses of the Bosti, Mallardo, Licciardi and Contini clans, but also their lieutenants, children, grandchildren and entrepreneurs who worked for the alliance.[55][56] The historical female boss Maria Licciardi managed to escape from the arrest in the operation, and is now considered a fugitive.[57] 7 members of the organization were arrested in Spain, Netherlands, South America and in the Balkans, places where they were running illicit business on behalf of the Alliance.[58]

On 4 July 2019, the Guardia di Finanza seized 538kg of cocaine, worth €200 million, destined for the Camorra in the port of Genoa. According to the reports, the drug was found in 19 bags inside a container that arrived from Colombia. On each of the loaves was a fake note of €500, the symbol is known to be of a new Colombian cartel born of the merger of several other cartels. The container was headed to Naples but was intercepted in the port of Genoa.[59]

On 12 July 2019, the Italian police confiscated €300 million, including 600 houses, lands, 16 cars and bank accounts belonging to Antonio Passarelli, a businessman believed to be connected to the Di Lauro clan, Puca clan, Aversano clan, Mallardo clan, Verde clan, Perfetto clan and to the Scissionisti di Secondigliano.[60]

On 10 August 2019, an operation of the police arrested six important members of the Rinaldi clan, particularly members of the Reale's faction. They are accused of drug trafficking, extortion and illegal possession of weapons. The organization, once considered one of the most prominent, is suffering hard blows in 2019, with the arrests of most of their leaders and important figures.[61]

On 21 August 2019, Giuseppe Chirico, included in the list of the most dangerous fugitives in Italy, was arrested in the Ciampino airport, where he landed after a brief holiday abroad. Chirico is considered a prominent member of the Scarpa's, linked to the powerful Gallo-Cavalieri clan from Torre Annunziata, dedicated in particular to international drug trafficking. He was wanted since January 2018 and was using a fake identity at the time of his arrest.[62]

On 24 September 2019, the Italian police arrested Salvatore Ferro, step brother of Gaetano Beneduce, head of the historical Beneduce-Longobardi clan, based in Pozzuoli. Ferro, according to investigations, led the Ferro's faction of the clan since the death of his brother Rosario Ferro, known as 'Capatosta, in 1998. Now he will serve two years and five months in prison.[63][64]

On September 2019, Pasquale Puca, known as ‘o minorenne, head of the Puca clan and nephew of Giuseppe Puca, was sentenced to life in prison. Puca is held responsible for the murder of Francesco Verde, known as ‘o negus, then leader of the Verde clan, happened in 2007. Between the end of the 1980s and the 1990s, the Verde clan contrasted with the Puca and Ranucci clans, a clash to which numerous murders were attributed.[65]

Outside Italy

Despite its origins, it presently has secondary ramifications in other Italian regions, like Lombardy,[66][67][68] Piedmont[69][70] and Emilia-Romagna,[71][72] in connection with the centers of national economic power. It has also spread outside the Italy's boundaries, and acquired a foothold in Spain, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Greece, United Kingdom, Romania, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Morocco, United States, Peru, Dominican Republic, Argentina and Colombia.[73][74]

According to Roberto Saviano, Camorra clans sold arms to the Government of Argentina during the Falklands War.[75] And according to Italian magistrates the Camorra clans have large amounts of money in banks and investiments hidden in the country.[76]

In 1997, Mario Fabbrocino, leader of one of the most powerful Camorra clans, was arrested in San Martín, Buenos Aires. According to the police he would be controlling his international drug trafficking business in the country.[77] Fabbrocino was extradited to Italy and was serving a life sentence in the 41-bis regime.[78] He died in prison on April 23, 2019.[79]

Although the 'Ndrangheta is considered the most prominent mafia in Belgium, Camorra is also very active in the country. The port of Antwerp is one of the main gateways by which drugs enter in Europe from South America. The Camorra clans in Belgium deal in international drug trafficking, money laundering, and reinvesting in real estate.[80]

The Secondigliano Alliance, a powerful alliance between the Contini clan, the Licciardi clan and the Mallardo clan is active in Brussels.[80]

In 2010, Vittorio Pirozzi, of the Mariano clan, was arrested in his apartment in Brussels. Pirozzi led a bloody war over the control of the Quartieri Spagnoli in the center of Naples in the mid-1980s. According to the media, he is an international drug trafficker, was among the 100 most wanted criminals in Italy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.[81]

According to reports of the DIA, in recent years Camorra clans are also present in China. The organization uses the country to run illegal activities like the counterfeit clothes, human trafficking, smuggling and money laundering.[82]

In the 1970s, Antonio Bardellino, Casalesi clan boss, moved from Aversa with his family to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. From Santo Domingo, Bardellino controlled a fish flour import-export enterprise, while building a massive cocaine trade from the Caribbean to the countryside of Aversa, passing through Alberto Beneduce, one of the leaders of the clan and friend of Michele Zagaria.[83]

In 2009, Ciro Mazzarella, one of the leaders of the Mazzarella clan, was arrested in Santo Domingo. In the country, he lived in a luxurious residence and held the reins of the clan especially for the management of drug trafficking.[84]

The powerful Secondigliano Alliance is also believed to use Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic to launder money.[85]

The Camorra has been present in France since the early 1980s. The locations with the biggest presence of the organization in the country are the French Riviera, Paris and Lyon. Their biggest objective in the country has always been to create contacts for drug trafficking but also money laundering.[86]

In 1993, the Camorra and the Sicilian Mafia were accused of running a $1.5 billion operation to launder drug money through banks, insurance companies, hotels and casinos in Italy and on the French Riviera, arresting 36 suspects.[87]

Paolo Di Lauro funnelled the proceeds into real estate, buying dozens of flats in Naples, owning shops in France and the Netherlands, as well as businesses importing fur, fake fur and lingerie.[88][89]

In 2014, Antonio Lo Russo, member of the powerful Lo Russo clan and considered the new regent of the clan, and his cousin Carlo Lo Russo were arrested by agents of National Gendarmerie Section de recherches and by Carabinieri when quietly in a bar in Nice. The clan is accused of extortion, drug trafficking and murder. According to the then Minister of the Interior of France, Bernard Cazeneuve, the arrest of Lo Russo was a hard blow for the organized crime in the country.[90]

In Greece, the Camorra clans are most active in the illicit cigarette trade and drug trafficking.[91] According to the pentito Gaetano Guida, the Di Lauro clan has invested a lot of money in Greece.[92] The Sacco-Bocchetti clan is among the clans who use Greece as an important route to supply heroin in Europe.[93] In 2017, three people belonging to the Mariano clan were arrested, they were accused of infiltration into the fish market of Naples, buying fish often from Greece, to launder money.[94]

The La Torre clan was known to launder money in the country with the help of the former chancellor of Salerno, Cesare Salomone.[95]

In June 2019 the operation Spaghetti Connection dismantled an international drug network involving the Camorra and the 'Ndrangheta in Abidjan and Tabou. The police seized 1.19 tons of cocaine, with the value of €250 million in the European market. This operation was the third of its kind in Ivory Coast in less than three years, but the largest by its magnitude. Six Italians, one French and three Ivorians were arrested.[96]

According to Silvain Coué, a French liaison officer, who participated of the operation:

The drug trafficking in the country is said to contribute to the financing of the various jihadist groups in the Sahel, Africa.[98]

The Italian state confiscated €30 million including real estates in Luxembourg belonging to Angelo Grillo, a businessman from Marcianise, considered very close to the Belforte clan.[99] Grillo also owned the company Lynch Invest SA based in the country. In the name of this company, he purchased real estates in Campania and Sardinia.[100]

Giuseppe Polverino, the leader of the Polverino clan before his arrest, was considered the 'hashish king', due to his monopoly on the importation of hashish from Morocco to Italy via Spain supplying not only all the Camorra clans, but also the 'Ndrangheta, the Sicilian Mafia and the Sacra Corona Unita.[101] The Polverino clan had a monopoly of the hashish trade since 1992. According to one of the pentitos of the clan, Domenico Verde, the hashish was cultivated in the region of Ketama, and arrived by mules in the beginning, but later was modernized and accessible on trucks and cars.[102]

On March 18, 2019 an Italian, suspected of being one of the leaders of the Mazzarella clan, was arrested in the Ourika region, near Marrakech. He had a pursuant to a red notice issued against him by Interpol in January 2019.[103]

On May 29, 2019 Raffaele Vallefuoco, an important member of the Polverino clan, was arrested in the Rabat region. Vallefuoco is considered one of the biggest drug traffickers in Italy and was included on the list of the 50 most wanted fugitives.[104][105]

According to Francesco Forgione, the former president of the Antimafia Commission, the Camorra is very active in gambling houses and money laundering in the Netherlands. The Camorra also uses the country to counterfeit clothes, and the clans most involved in this illegal activity are the Licciardi clan, the Di Lauro clan and the Sarno clan.[106]

Augusto La Torre, the former leader of the La Torre clan is suspected of having hid hundreds of millions of euros in Dutch banks, as the La Torre clan was very active in the country in the 1990s transporting large cocaine shipments from South America to Naples via the Netherlands.[107]

In 1996, Raffaele Imperiale bought a coffee shop called Rockland Coffee in Amsterdam, where he sold soft drugs and was involved in large scale cocaine trafficking with the Dutch drug trader Rick van de Bunt. Imperiale worked in Amsterdam until 2008. In 2016, two stolen Van Gogh paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 were recovered in a villa near Naples, connected to Raffaele Imperiale, accused of being one of the Camorra's prolific drug barons. Imperiale was sentenced to 18 years in absentia for drug offenses.[108] After fleeing the Netherlands to Dubai, he had been seen in the Burj Al Arab hotel.[109]

In the 1980s, Umberto Ammaturo, a Camorra boss, established a virtual monopoly of cocaine trafficking to Italy from Peru, where he benefited from the protection and collusion of important personalities.[110] According to the DEA, due to his trafficking activities, Ammaturo was one of the chief financiers of the Shining Path guerrilla movement in Peru.[111]

The Camorra boss and member of the Mazzarella clan, Salvatore Zazo, was allegedly involved in a large scheme of international cocaine trafficking from Peru to Europe, with the intention to acquire total control of the Port of Callao; one of his contacts was drug lord Gerald Oropeza, one of the biggest traffickers in Peru.[112] According to the DEA, Zazo would manage more than U$500 million per year in shipments of cocaine through the ports of the country to Europe.[113]

Camorra clans in Romania deal in money laundering.[73] In 2017, Gaetano Manzo, the accountant of the Sacco-Bocchetti clan, was arrested in his villa in Fizeșu Gherlii. The Sacco-Bocchetti clan is a subgroup of the Licciardi clan and Manzo took care of the accounting of the clan, and often supervised the supply of drugs from abroad.[114] In 2018, Nicola Inquieto, an Italian businessman with strong ties to Michele Zagaria one of the leaders of the powerful Casalesi clan, was arrested in Romania. Inquieto has built hundreds of apartments through his companies and owns the most modern spa in Argeș County. The prosecutors have also seized 400 apartments in Pitești belonging to his companies. His businesses in the country are valued at several million euros.[115]

According to the journalist Roberto Saviano, Spain (after Italy) is the country most entwined with the Camorra. It is where the Camorra clans established its massive businesses revolving around drug trafficking and money laundering in real estate.[116]

Camorra has been in Spain since the 1980s. The most powerful clan acting in the country is the Polverino clan due to the number of people they have installed and because of the potential of their structure. They have influence in the cities of Alicante, Tarragona, Málaga and Cádiz.[117]

According to the Italian antimafia police, in recent times, the Camorra clans based in Spain have accumulated €700 million as a result of drug trafficking and money laundering in the country.[118]

The presence of the organization in the Costa del Sol is so strong that Camorra bosses refer to it as Costa Nostra' ("Our Coast"), according to Italian journalist Roberto Saviano, a specialist on the Naples criminal underworld.[119]

Another clan with influence in Spain is the Scissionisti di Secondigliano led by Raffaele Amato nicknamed Lo Spagnolo (the Spaniard), because before creating his own clan, he controlled the drug trafficking operation from Galicia to Naples for the Di Lauro clan.[120] Amato was arrested as he left a casino in Barcelona in 2005.[121]

The drug trafficker Pasquale Brunese was arrested in Valencia in 2015, after seven years hiding from the italian police.[122] He was a member of the De Luca Bossa clan, for whom he worked in the drug trade. In Spain, Brunese owned a restaurant and was living with a false name.[123][124]

In February 2019, the Spanish police arrested 14 members of the notorious Marranella clan. According to the Guardia Civil, the clan is one of the most important and violent criminal organizations dedicated to the international drug trade and is based in the Costa del Sol.[125]

The Camorra has had a presence in Switzerland for more than 50 years, undertaking money laundering but also arms trafficking and drug trafficking. The Casalesi clan is present throughout the country, and according to the investigations into the clan, it has numerous Swiss bank accounts.[126]

In 1992, Ciro Mazzarella, boss of the Mazzarella clan, decided to move to Switzerland, after losing a war between Camorra clans in Naples. From his logistics base in Lugano, he created an enviable economic empire with cigarette smuggling that arrives from Montenegro.[127]

In 2017, assets worth €20 million belonging to the Potenza brothers, who are considered to be linked to the Lo Russo clan, were seized in Lugano, including bank accounts in BSI.[128]

Scotland has had its brush with the Camorra. Antonio La Torre of Aberdeen was the local "Don" of the Camorra. He is the brother of Camorra boss Augusto La Torre of the La Torre clan which had its base in Mondragone, Caserta. The La Torre Clan's empire was worth hundreds of millions of euros. Antonio had several legitimate businesses in Aberdeen, whereas his brother Augusto had several illegal businesses there. Augusto would eventually become a pentito in January 2003.[129] Antonio was convicted in Scotland and extradited to Italy in 2006 to serve a 13-year sentence; he was released in 2014.[130]

Two Aberdeen restaurateurs, Ciro Schiattarella and Michele Siciliano, were extradited to Italy for their part in the "Aberdeen Camorra". A fourth Scottish associate made history by becoming the first foreign member of the Camorra and is currently serving a jail sentence in the UK. It has been reported that he also receives a monthly salary, legal assistance and protection.[131]

Saviano alleges that from the 1980s, Italian gangsters ran a network of lucrative businesses in the city as well as many illegal rackets. Saviano said Scotland's third city, with no history of organized crime, was seen as an attractive safe haven away from the violent inter-gang bloodletting that had engulfed their Neapolitan stronghold of Mondragone. Saviano claims that before the Italian clans arrived, Aberdeen did not know how to exploit its resources for recreation and tourism. He further states that the Italians infused the city with economic energy, revitalised the tourist industry, inspired new import-export activities and injected new vigour in the real-estate sector. It thereby turned Aberdeen into a chic, elegant address for fine dining and important dealings.[131]

The hub of La Torre's UK empire, Pavarotti's restaurant, now under different ownership, was even feted at Italissima, a prestigious gastronomic fair held in Paris. The restaurant was even advertised on the city's local tourist guides. Saviano further claims to have gone to Aberdeen and worked in a restaurant run by Antonio La Torre. The Camorristas operated a system known as "scratch" where they used to step up illegal activities if their legitimate ventures were struggling. If cash was short they had counterfeit notes printed; if capital was needed in a hurry, they sold bogus treasury bonds. They annihilated the competition through extortions and imported merchandise tax-free. The Camorra were able to run all sort of deals because the local police had virtually no experience in dealing with organized crime. Although they broke the law, there were never any guns or serious violence, due to lack of rivals.[131]

However, the suggestion that the city remains in the grip of mobsters has been strongly denied by leaders of the 300 strong Italian community in Aberdeen. Moreover, Giuseppe Baldini, the Italian government's vice-consul in Aberdeen, denies that the Camorra still maintains its presence in Aberdeen.[131]

The Camorra existed in the United States between the mid-19th century and early 20th century. They rivaled the defunct Morello crime family for power in New York City. Eventually, they melded with the early Italian-American Mafia groups.

Many Camorra members and associates fled the internecine gang warfare and Italian Justice and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. In 1993, the FBI estimated that there were 200 camorristi in the United States. Although there appears to be no clan structure in the United States, Camorra members have established a presence in Los Angeles, New York City and Springfield, Massachusetts.[132] The Camorra is the least active of all the organized crime groups in the United States.[133] In spite of this, the US law enforcement considers the Camorra to be a rising criminal enterprise, especially dangerous because of its ability to adapt to new trends and forge new alliances with other criminal organizations.[134]

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

In 2012, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on the Camorra as one of four key transnational organized crime groups, along with the Brothers' Circle from Russia, the Yamaguchi-gumi (Yakuza) from Japan, and Los Zetas from Mexico.[136]

Alliances with other criminal groups

According to the media, there has always been alliances between the Camorra and the 'Ndrangheta members. On August 26, 1976, Domenico Tripodo, a powerful 'Ndrangheta boss of the time, was stabbed to death in prison on the request of the De Stefano 'ndrina with the help of Camorra boss Raffaele Cutolo, the boss of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata (NCO) who worked with the De Stefano's in drug trafficking.[137]

The Tamanaco operation that ended on June 22, 2010, destroyed a drug trafficking operation managed by the La Torre clan from Mondragone and the Barbaro 'ndrina from Platì. The operation consisted in transporting the drugs from Venezuela and Colombia, through several European ports including the port of Amsterdam. At the port of Livorno, 700 kilos of cocaine were seized.[138]

On May 11, 2016, a criminal alliance between the sinti criminal organization Casamonica clan, members of the Camorra, and affiliates from the 'Ndrangheta's of Polistena, Taurianova and Melicucco was dismantled by the police. €25 million were seized.[139]

On March 21, 2018, 19 arrests were made in Rome of alleged members belonging to the Licciardi clan of the Camorra and members of the Filippone 'ndrina and Gallico 'ndrina accused of drug trafficking.[140]

In 2019, investigations of the Italian police reveals links between the Contini clan and the Crupi brothers, members of the powerful Commisso 'ndrina. Both organizations are reportedly cooperating in the drug trafficking business.[141]

Several Camorra clans have lasting relationships with the Cosa Nostra. Prominent elements of the Mafia such as Salvatore Riina, Leoluca Bagarella, Luciano Leggio and Bernardo Provenzano found themselves in contact with Camorra clans such as the Nuvoletta clan, members of the Camorra such as Michele Zaza and Antonio Bardellino, and with other groups that formed the Nuova Famiglia confederation in the 1980s.[142]

In the past, the Russo clan had links with the Mafia, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, at the time of the Corleonesi Mafia era.[143]

In 2019, the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia of Catania dismantled a scheme between the Camorra's Mallardo clan and Casalesi clan and members of the powerful Catania's mafia family, led by Vincenzo Enrico Augusto Ercolano, son of Giuseppe Ercolano (deceased, but once an important member of the Catania's mafia) and Grazia Santapaola, the sister of the historical boss Benedetto Santapaola. The DIA also confiscated €10 million in the operation.[144][145]

In 1981, Raffaele Cutolo, entrusted Pino Iannelli and Alessandro Fusco the task of founding an organization in Apulia to be directly controlled by the Nuova Camorra Organizzata, the organization was named Nuova Camorra Pugliese, later called Sacra Corona Unita. This organization operated in various cities of Apulia during the 1980s.[146] But with the downfall of Cutolo, the organisation was no longer a subgroup of the Camorra and was under the leadership of Giuseppe Rogoli.[147]

According to the pentito Antonio Accurso, the Di Lauro clan has several links to the Sacra Corona Unita in question with regards to drug trafficking.[148]

In September 2019, the Italian police dismantled an international drug trafficking alliance between the powerful Gionta clan of the Camorra, the Società Foggiana, also known as the fourth-mafia, and Moroccan drug traffickers.[149] The investigation started in 2016 against a Maghreb gang based in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The vast network of drug traffickers, extended from Morocco, passing through Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands to finally arrive in Trentino and in Bolzano. Arriving in Italy, the drugs were sold in parks, historic centers and near schools by mainly Tunisian and Moroccan pushers. Nineteen people were arrested, four are still being wanted in Italy, Spain and in the Netherlands and seventy-three are under investigation. In the operation were seized over 1 ton of hashish and 2 kg of cocaine.[150] [151]

The relationship between the South American drug cartels and the Italian criminal organizations for over 50 years.[152] According to investigations, the Camorra member Tommaso Iacomino allegedly negotiated with the head of Peruvian and Colombian drug cartels over the cocaine trade.[153]

Giuseppe Gallo called 'o pazz (the crazy one), boss of the Limelli-Vangone clan, is said to having contacts with Colombian drug traffickers able to reach agreements for the purchase of large quantities of cocaine, supplying various clans in the Naples area.[154]

In 2016, Salvatore Iavarone, a broker in South America representing the Tamarisco clan from Torre Annunziata, was arrested in Ecuador.[155] Iavarone is believed to be the main link for the shipment of narcotics from Ecuador to Europe.[156] Other 28 members were arrested during this operation. The police also confiscated €11 million that belonged to Iavarone in Ecuador.[157]

According to the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, the Albanian mafia has alliances with the Mazzarella clan and with the Scissionisti di Secondigliano, both from Naples and with the Serino clan, from Salerno.[146]

Roberto Saviano, an expert on the Camorra, spoke of the Albanian mafia as a "no longer foreign mafia" to Italy and stressed that the Albanians and Italians have a "brotherly" relationship with each other. Saviano notes that the Camorra feels great affinity with the Albanian crime families because both organizations are based on family ties.[158]

Some Camorra clans, including the Giuliano clan, once led by Luigi Giuliano, have established business relationships with Chinese criminal gangs, especially in the sector of counterfeiting Italian brands. The Camorra clans imposed the final price of the products and in return they provided the services to get around the controls.[159]

In 2017, investigators discovered a scheme between the Camorra and the Chinese gangs. They exported industrial waste from Italy to China that guaranteed million-dollar revenues for both organizations. The industrial waste left Prato in Italy and arrived in Hong Kong. Among the Camorra clans involved in this alliance were the Casalesi clan, the Fabbrocino clan and the Ascione clan.[160]

In the beginning, the Nigerians were not tolerated by the Camorra but in recent times both organizations are making alliances. The relations between the Camorra and Nigerian mafia concern mainly drug trafficking and prostitution. In particular, Camorra members allowed the Nigeria gangs to organize the trafficking of women in the territory in exchange for a share on the earnings. The Nigerian mafia produces synthetic drugs independently and sells them with the consent of the Camorra. This alliance, however, can change from one moment to another, as the Nigerians have asked to be treated on par with other Italian mafias, for the fact that they are growing both as a military and as an economic force.[161]

In 1995, the Camorra cooperated with the Russian Mafia in a scheme in which the Camorra would bleach out US$1 bills and reprint them as $100s. These bills would then be transported to the Russian Mafia for distribution in 29 post-Eastern Bloc countries and former Soviet republics.[132] In return, the Russian Mafia paid the Camorra with property (including a Russian bank) and firearms, smuggled into Eastern Europe and Italy.[134]

In the 2000s, the Ukrainian mafia cooperated with Camorra clans in the cigarette smuggling business. The Ukrainians would smuggle the cigarettes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe into Italy, where with the help of the Camorra it supplies the Neapolitan market.[162][163] In recent years, the Contini clan is said to have cooperated in the same scheme with the Ukrainians.[164]

In March 2019, a massive international arms trafficking ring was dismantled by the authorities of Italy and Austria and coordinated by Eurojust. According to the investigations, the alliance between the Camorra and the Austrians lasted for seven years, until the police dismantled the scheme. The Austrians are known to have sold more than 800 new pistols to the Camorra as well as 50 Kalashnikovs and 10 'Scorpion' sub-machine guns, worth a total of €500,000.[165]

According to Gerhard Jarosch, the National Member for Austria at Eurojust:

The weapons are believed to have come originally from Eastern Europe taken to Carinthia in Austria with the objective to arrive in Terzigno near Naples.[167]

Current status

With most of the old Camorra clans decapitated, and their bosses either dead or arrested, the organization is experiencing a rise in youth criminal gangs trying to take their places. This phenomenon is called Paranza, which is Camorra terminology, for a criminal group led by youngsters or "small fish". In the past, the older bosses often operated out of the limelight, but the young criminals in modern times broadcast their exploits on social media, posing in designer clothes, and €200 bottles of champagne.[168]

In 2014, Emanuele Sibillo was 18 and considered one of the first young and leading bosses of this new generation. In 2015, he was shot dead by a rival baby gang.[169] Most of these young criminals are children of Camorra members that are currently in jail.[170]

According to Felia Allum, author of book The Invisible Camorra: Neapolitan Crime Families across Europe:

However, according to Peppe Misso, called ’o nasone, former boss of the Misso clan for over 40 years and now pentito, this young generation of criminals are managed by the "real" Camorra clans, shifting the public attention to these baby gangs while they do their business in silence. According to Misso, the real power of the organization is now in the hands of the Licciardi clan, Mallardo clan, Moccia clan and Contini clan.[172]

On 2 September 2018, Ciro Mazzarella, one of the last historical godfathers of the Camorra, and head of the Mazzarella clan, died in his villa in the affluent neighbourhood of Posillipo, Naples at the age of 78.[173]

According to reports, in 2019, after the arrest of Marco Di Lauro, leader of the Di Lauro clan and fourth son of Paolo Di Lauro, the Contini clan became the most powerful clan of the Camorra, thanks to no internal split, and no having affiliates that became collaborators of justice. The clan is present in the drugs trafficking, extortion, betting and counterfeiting, also investing hundreds of millions of euros in various countries of Europe.[174]

On 23 April 2019, the powerful boss Mario Fabbrocino, leader of the Fabbrocino clan, died in the hospital of the Parma prison, where he was serving a life sentence for ordering the murder of Roberto Cutolo, Raffaele Cutolo's only son, in 1990.[175] He was known as the boss dei due mondi (boss of two worlds) due to his drug trafficking connections in South America.[176]

Since 26 June 2019, Maria Licciardi was considered the most wanted fugitive belonging to the Camorra, after she managed to escape the huge police operation against her clan.[177] However, on 12 July 2019, the Court of Naples annulled the preventive detention against Licciardi, sharing the legal questions raised by her lawyer, Dario Vannetiello. Now, Licciardi is considered a free woman, despite her known role as the head of the Secondigliano Alliance.[178]

On 11 July 2019, Anna Terracciano, known as ‘a Masculona, boss of the Terracciano clan, died after suffering from an unknown illness. Terraciano had taken control of the clan after the death of her brother Salvatore, known as ‘o Nirone, in 2016. She has always been very feared and respected for her impetuous nature. According to the media, she is the figure that has well represented the image of the women inside the Camorra, the female symbol of leadership when men are detained or dead.[179]

According to the reports of the DIA about the Camorra, the Mazzarella clan, despite the bloody war against the Rinaldi clan, still one of most powerful organizations in Campania, dominating the territory in various neighbourhoods, and having numerous groups under their influence, as the Ferraiuolo clan. [180]

After a time inactive, the De Luca Bossa clan is believed to be gaining power again in the eastern area of Naples, specifically in Ponticelli, thanks to the merger with emergent groups as the Minichini and Schisa.[181] The clan was founded by Antonio De Luca Bossa, known as ‘O sicco, in the 90's, and was famous for the bloody war against the once powerful Sarno clan. In 1998, ‘O sicco made the first attack with a car bomb in the Camorra's history, killing Luigi Amitrano, the nephew of the boss Vincenzo Sarno, the real target of the ambush.[182] Antonio's father was a member of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata, and died from natural causes in 2008 after 18 years in jail.[183]

On 11 September 2019, Antonino Di Lorenzo, known as o' lignammone, was killed in an ambush near his house in Casola di Napoli.[184] Di Lorenzo was a notorious drug trafficker, dubbed by the media 'the king of drug trafficking in the Monti Lattari region'.[185] According to the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, he was specialized in the industrial production of marijuana, flooding the illegal drug market, supplying market squares from Castellammare di Stabia to Sorrento[186] and in recent years was at the center of numerous investigations about drug trafficking.[187] His murder is believed to be connected with the feud for control of vast marijuana plantations in the mountainous area of Monti Lattari. Yet, according to the investigations, the killing happened thanks to the 'permission' of the clans from Castellammare di Stabia, who have always supervised the immensely lucrative marijuana trade from the region.[188]

On 18 September 2019, Ciro Rinaldi, head of the powerful Rinaldi clan, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was considered to be the mastermind behind the murders of Raffaele Cepparulo, member of a small gang linked to the Mazzarella clan, and of Ciro Colonna, an innocent victim.[189] Rinaldi reportedly ordered Cepparulo's death believing he was planning to kill him to make a "pleasure" to the Mazzarella clan, historical enemies of the Rinaldi's.[190]

In popular culture

  • Camorra is a 1972 film, directed by Pasquale Squitieri, starring Fabio Testi and Jean Seberg.
  • "Commendatori", an episode of The Sopranos which features the Camorra.
  • Il camorrista (1986), directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Vaguely inspired by the real story of NCO boss, Raffaele Cutolo. Cutolo is played by Ben Gazzara, with the Italian voiceover done by Italian actor Mariano Rigillo.
  • Roberto Saviano's 2006 book Gomorra investigates the activities of the Camorra in Italy, especially in the Provinces of Naples and Caserta. Matteo Garrone adopted the book into a 2008 film, Gomorra, describing low-level Camorra foot-soldiers, and in 2014 into a TV series of the same name.
  • The 2009 film Fortapàsc (English: Fort Apache Napoli) directed by Marco Risi about the brief life and death of journalist Giancarlo Siani, murdered by camorrisiti from the Nuvoletta clan.[191]
  • The opera I gioielli della Madonna by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari features the Camorra as part of the plot.
  • The story of Raffaele Cutolo also inspired one of the most famous songs of Fabrizio De André, entitled Don Raffaé (Clouds of 1990).
  • The Camorra (depicted as a hooded secret society) appear as villains in an episode of The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Dancing Death".
  • Also referenced in an episode of Archer (Season 4, Episode 11) when a plot against the pope was being carried out by Camorra grunts.
  • In the Japanese light novel series and anime Baccano!, a handful of the main characters are part of the Camorra group known as the Martillo Family, and become quite insulted if they are mistaken for the Mafia.
  • Elena Ferrante's four Neapolitan Novels are concerned with the damage done by the Camorra portrayed as the two Solara brothers.
  • In Rei Hiroe's manga Black Lagoon, during the "El baile De La Muerte"/"Roberta's Blood Trail" arc, a man called Tomazo makes his appearance. Tomazo is on the side of the Italian mob leader Ronnie the jaws. Later it is revealed that Tomazo is a member of the Camorra, and his surname Falcone as well.
  • In John Wick: Chapter 2, main antagonist Santino D'Antonio is a member of the Camorra.
  • In the short story "The Fate of Faustina" by E. W. Hornung, it is revealed that the main character and criminal-in-hiding A. J. Raffles has made an enemy of a high-level member of the Camorra from his time spent in Italy. In the sequel story, "The Last Laugh", the Camorra try to realize that threat and kill Raffles; however, Raffles not only saves himself from his attackers but also tricks them into poisoning themselves.

See also

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