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At 80, commander of Italian mafia

Any Italians who were still in the dark about the mysterious mafia known as the 'Ndrangheta got a rude awakening on July 13 when 3,000 police officers hauled in 300 suspected members of the mob hailing from Calabria.

world Updated: Jul 19, 2010 00:04 IST
Tom Kington

Any Italians who were still in the dark about the mysterious mafia known as the 'Ndrangheta got a rude awakening on July 13 when 3,000 police officers hauled in 300 suspected members of the mob hailing from Calabria.

Just as shocking as the assets seized and the arrests made were the police surveillance videos that revealed how the mob's drugs and extortion empire — worth £37bn and equal to 2.9% of Italy's GDP — was controlled by a group of cheaply dressed, paunchy old men who held summits at a remote religious shrine in the Calabrian mountains.

Even more surprising is that the 'Ndrangheta, long considered a loose federation of clans, had a supreme commander at all, let alone a man like Oppedisano, 80, who was described by neighbours as an old gent who delivered produce from his orchard to his local market in a three-wheeled van.

He is suspected of overseeing a mob that has gone global after wresting control of the Mediterranean drug trade in the 1990s from Sicily's Cosa Nostra.

The Guardian