The Mafia's Secret Bunkers

The Mafia's Secret Bunkers

2013, Crime  -   9 Comments
Ratings: 8.69/10 from 154 users.

Italy has always been infamously known for its issues with organized crime. Until recently, Sicily's Cosa Nostra (in English, "Our Thing,") has been the only name worth knowing in connection with the Mafia. However, the past few years have seen a family-run crime organization known as the 'Ndrangheta (from the Greek for "courage" or "loyalty") coming up in the ranks.

Author and Mafia historian John Dickie takes us into the secret world of this (literally) underground crime organization, guided by the Cacciatori (Italy's Mafia "hunters"), who, in Calabria, are much more respected and feared than the actual police force.

Formed in the 1860's, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta began when a group of Sicilian mobsters were banished from Sicily by the Italian government. Thus, the Calabrian Mafia is distinct from their Sicilian counterparts because of their extreme distrust for government. While Cosa Nostra often works hand-in-hand with the state, keeping a constant dialogue going, the 'Ndrangheta have long thrived in shadow. Calabria is located in the "toe" of Italy's "boot," making it an excellent place to hide out.

The 'Ndrangheta operated quietly within the small communities there, conducting their business in secret and hiding out in underground bunkers when the heat got too high. The communities housed them, and their secrets, until the early 2000's when the big crackdowns on Cosa Nostra began in Sicily. With all of the government's attention focused there, the 'Ndrangheta began to grow, unchecked. Instead of warring with local government, they chose to buy it -- piece by piece, person by person. Thus, when someone in Calabria has a problem with the 'Ndrangheta, it is unsafe to go to the local police. And so, the Cacciatori were born.

The 'Ndrangheta's secret empire is located beneath the villages in Aspromonte ("harsh mountain"). It's a geographically perfect place to hide, as the rocky terrain makes the mountain extremely difficult to access, and thus, those in law enforcement who would still care to go against the 'Ndrangheta, have little foothold. The mountain houses an underground labyrinth of bunkers, built for kings and supplied with enough comforts that a Mafioso could survive here for months.

With concealed entrances, very cleverly disguised exits, false walls, secret rooms and a tunnel system that runs underground, the Cacciatori take presenter John Dickie on a tour of some of the bunkers they have found that have housed everyone from big bosses like Antonio Pelle and Ciccio Pesce (who even built an underground greenhouse to grow cannabis in), to beautifully built and supplied bunkers that have never been used at all.

With the 'Ndrangheta's bosses being Europe's biggest cocaine traffickers, the "protection" taxes and tariffs imposed on local businesses, and all manner of extortion, fraud and violence, the 'Ndrangheta are now the most powerful organized crime organization in the world. With an annual revenue of 53 billion euros, this is definitely the organization to watch out for.

Directed by: Elena Cosentino

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1 year ago

Although it was not described as such, this documentary really tells the story of a battle between organized crime groups. The 'Ndrangheta on one side, and an even more powerful mafia, the Italian state, backed by an international syndicate of governments, on the other. This syndicate has its own rituals, larger and more sophisticated than those of the 'Ndrangheta, conducted at places like the United Nations in New York and Davos in Switzerland.

Neither side has clean hands, but the State pretends to legitimacy on a level that the mafia never has while engaging in their criminal operations on an equally large scale. They collect their "protection money" openly, and call it taxation. If you don't pay, they may come and seize your assets, even lock you for years in a cage. Even though their self-serving violence kills many more people, the media do not equate it with criminal violence. They do not talk about how the State is a for-profit enterprise, only one that is more institutionalized, and whose profits are more systematically distributed to large numbers of politicians, bureaucrats, and collaborators whose special interests benefit from the State's criminal largess.

6 years ago

DAMN. It's hard to find a Mafia doc./film/series/news resport that isn't the same ol' same ol' subject material this was very interesting and I have not heard of the main group in discussion!

9 years ago

I watched the entire docs, brilliant piece indeed!!!

Rodney Bresch
9 years ago

I’ve got burnt out over the years, with the over-saturated amount of Mafia docs, including some on Italian mobsters. But, this was def a good piece. I particularly liked this line: “There is this façade of a state, and this real state. Paradoxically, the real state is the ‘Ndrangheta.” Replace 'Ndrangheta, with the virtual senate(heads of corps and banks etc), and it explains who has the majority of power in today’s world.

9 years ago

Great doc! (minor negative comment: why is every hill, bathroom, car, fence and shoe "amazing" and "extraordinary"? In a great doc like this you precisely DO NOT need an overly engaged host)

~Oliver B Koslik Esq
9 years ago

Outstanding doc!
Many great points!

+1 TDF

9 years ago

Fascinating ! Well produced doc. well worth watching.

Rodney Bresch
9 years ago

Haven't had time to watch it, yet. But, it's very fascinating, judging from the synopsis. "Literally underground"...