Mafia deeply entrenched in Australia

BY JO MCKENNA
Last updated 09:02 15/03/2010

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Days after police smashed a multimillion-dollar drug ring with alleged mafia links in Sydney and Mildura, a new report by Italy's top anti-mafia investigators has named several Calabrian mafia clans that have created "permanent links" with key family members in Australia.

In its annual report for last year, the National Anti-Mafia Directorate said the Calabrian Mafia, also known as 'Ndrangheta, had been transformed from a localised criminal operation in the impoverished south of Italy into a vast and complex international enterprise that exploits "deeply rooted" links in Australia.

In the report, obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, the directorate names several powerful clans, including Sergi, Barbaro and Papalia, as groups that have "active affiliates" in Australia.

"The links with the mafia families are steadfast and deeply rooted in Australia where permanent traditional links with the Calabrian clans have been solidly established," the report says. "Clans like Sergi, Barbaro, Papalia have been active through their Australian affiliates for some time."

In August 2008 a Griffith man, Pasquale Barbaro, was arrested along with 19 others as part of the-then world's biggest ecstasy bust.

Police allege Mr Barbaro was the organiser of the drug operation in which drugs worth $440 million, hidden in tomato tins, were shipped from Italy to Melbourne.

Mr Barbaro is the son of Francesco ''Little Trees'' Barbaro, who was named in the Woodward Royal Commission as a member of the Griffith-based Calabrian group behind the disappearance of anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977.

The commission also named Pasquale ''Pat'' Sergi, a Sydney property developer and charity director, as a money launderer for the drug boss Robert Trimbole.

Months before the Griffith arrests, the Italian Anti-Mafia Commission - a body comprised of members from both houses of parliament - told the Italian parliament that Australia was a key part of the worldwide Calabrian mafia network for drug trafficking.

The annual report by the National Anti-Mafia Directorate - an inter-agency organisation specialising in anti-Mafia investigations - says strong Australian links have been confirmed by recent investigations carried out by anti-Mafia prosecutors in two Calabrian cities, Catanzaro and Reggio Calabria.

A NSW detective, Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, who led last week's raids in Sydney, said police investigations were continuing and he hoped they would lead to more arrests. He also wants to establish more direct links with law enforcement officials abroad.

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The directorate's report reveals an enormous worldwide expansion of the Calabrian Mafia, which it says has become the European leader in trafficking cocaine through ports in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The organisation has an annual turnover of more than $70 billion, according to some estimates.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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