The Terrifying Calabrian Mafia Group Likely Behind Paul Getty's Kidnapping

Photo: Courtesy of FX Network..
This evening’s episode of Trust was called “La Dolce Vita,” but another appropriate name would be, “It’s All Fun And Games Until You’re Captured By The Actual Mafia.” In Trust’s version the Getty kidnapping, Paul Getty (Harris Dickinson) initially intended to fake his own capture. In the plan, he would stay with Bertolini (Giuseppe Battison), to whom he owed drug money, and then pay Bertolini off once his grandfather delivered on the ransom.
Getty's plan goes sharply awry when Bertolini trades Getty to a member of a crime syndicate somewhere in a remote sunflower field. That man brutally and unexpectedly kills Bertolini, and brings Getty to the next stage in his ordeal: A cave in the Southern Italian region of Calabria, where he will remain for over six months. As of episode 3 of Trust, Getty’s kidnapping is officially out of his control.
So, who’s behind this very real, very terrifying kidnapping? After Paul Getty’s grandfather finally paid a $2.9 million ransom (a number far reduced from the original asking price), Paul was released on December 15, 1973, on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway. Nine men were arrested in connection to Getty’s abduction. Two of the men arrested, Girolamo Piromalli and Saverio Mammoliti, were members of the ‘Ndrangheta, and were credited with orchestrating the kidnapping. Only two men were arrested for Getty's kidnap, and they weren't Piromalli or Mammoliti.
Not only is the ‘Ndrangheta (pronounced en-drang-ay-ta) still around — it's even more prominent today than it had been in 1973. In 2006, Giuseppe Pisanu, the then-interior minister of Italy, called the group "the most deep-rooted, the most powerful and the most aggressive of [Italy's] criminal organizations,” according to The Guardian. With an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 members in Italy, ‘Ndrangheta is larger than other Italian mafia organizations, like Sicily’s Cosa Nostra. According to Italy’s most senior anti-Mafia prosecutor, Franco Roberti, it’s also more powerful than La Cosa Nostra. Roberti believes the ‘Ndrangheta “has surpassed Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra in influence thanks to its control of the cocaine trade,” the Local Italy reports.
Also, due to waves of emigration in the 1920s and after WWII, the ‘Ndrangheta has branches all over the world, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Latin America. “The ‘Ndrangheta is the only mafia that can be found in all five continents. We could define it as the only ‘globalized' mafia,” Nicola Gratteri, a Calabrian public attorney who specializes in tracking the ‘Ndrangheta, told Vice News.
The ‘Ndrangheta was formed in the 1860s, likely by members of Sicily’s La Casa Nostra (the Sicilian mafia), who had been exiled to the mainland. The name derives from the Greek, and means, more or less, “society of honorable men.” During the time when Getty was kidnapped, the ‘Ndrangheta limited their business — mainly extortion and kidnappings — to Calabria. Then, in 1975, two years after Getty’s kidnapping, an important ‘Ndrangheta godfather was murdered, pulling the organization into an inter-clan war that led to the deaths of 300 people, and the transformation of the ‘Ndrangheta (Piromalli, who kidnapped Getty, was involved).
In the 1980s, the organization began to expand its activities to regions beyond Southern Italy. Similar to the kidnapping of Getty, the ‘Ndrangheta began to capture wealthy Northern Italian businessmen, and keep them in caves in Aspromonte until their families would pay for their release. Then, in the late 1990s, the ‘Ndrangheta established contacts in Latin America and officially entered the cocaine trade. According to The Telegraph, “80% of the cocaine entering Europe today is brought in by Calabrian mobsters.”
The 'Ndrangheta has a unique structure. The separate clans that, together, comprise the 'Ndrangheta, are called ‘ndrine. Each ‘ndrina specializes in a disparate illegal activity, from cocaine importation to extortion of Italian construction centers. But what binds the disparate organization together is family: Everyone in the ‘ndrine are actually blood related, and the ‘Ndrangheta use marriage as a tool to keep clans connected. Sons are expected to follow their fathers into their “line of work,” and do so through a ritual called a blood baptism. After agreeing to the mafia's honor codes, the inductee's finger is pierced so that blood can fall on the image of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of the ‘Ndrangheta. This ritual is representative of the rest of the ‘Ndrangheta’s old-fashioned, religious values, which are uniform in ‘ndrine around the world.
As a result of these family ties, members of the organization are less likely to cooperate with Italian police after their arrest in exchange for shorter sentences, or freedom. "A Calabrian mobster considering turning state's evidence has to come to terms with betraying maybe 200 of his relatives," Gratteri told the Guardian. All that said, the ‘Ndrangheta often experiences violent inter-family conflict. In 2007, in a town in Germany, six young members of the Pelle-Vottari branch were killed by someone in the Nino-Strangio branch — the final act in a feud between families that began in 1997.
In Trust, we’re likely to see at least a sliver of the ‘Ndrangheta as it was in 1973. Just remember: It’s still out there, and far more powerful than anything you’d see in The Godfather.

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