Terror diverts focus from Mafia ‘board of directors’

Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker, Michael Bachelard

Inside a mafia ecstasy sting

The Calabrian mafia was responsible for the world’s biggest ecstasy importation in 2007. As Fairfax Media and the ABC can reveal, it didn’t go to plan…

Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutor and Australian police are warning that the massive diversion of law-enforcement resources to combat terrorism is eroding the fight against the Mafia and other serious organised crime groups.

Australian authorities have failed for decades to dismantle the “board of directors” of Calabrian Mafia godfathers across Australia, allowing them to entrench their drug trafficking operations, build alliances with outlaw bikie gangs and infiltrate government and police agencies.

The Mafia's reach in VictoriaThe Mafia’s reach in Victoria.

A 2013 multi-agency police report warns “Ndrangheta Transnational Australian Groups” are posing an extreme risk to Australia.

Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Dr Nicola Gratteri has also warned that the Australian government has risked allowing these organised crime groups to prosper.

“When social alarm is provoked over terrorism, governments are forced to invest in terrorism and not in Mafia … the Mafia celebrates because they know there are fewer resources,” Dr Gratteri said.

The Mafia's reach in NSW.
The Mafia’s reach in NSW.

Senior police across Australia have confidentially backed these comments, saying that while terrorism was a clear priority, the focus on suspected jihadists had meant the shifting of important resources away from the fight against organised crime.

Three weeks ago, Dr Gratteri oversaw an international anti-Mafia operation, codenamed Santa Fe, which attacked the operations of the powerful Alvaro Mafia clan, seizing tonnes of cocaine and making dozens of arrests.

Confidential Italian and Australian police files state that the Alvaro clan has powerful cells operating in Australia, allegedly headed by Adelaide construction figure, Paul Alvaro, 64, and a NSW man. Mr Alvaro did not answer specific questions, but he denies any links to organised crime

The pair is aligned to a handful of figures in capital cities across the nation and in Griffith, NSW, who – according to a police assessment – operate as “an executive Board of Directors” for the Calabrian Mafia, or “Ndrangheta”.

The board “comes together on an ad hoc basis particularly in times of crisis or when the low profile of [the Calabrian Mafia], so carefully cultivated and jealously protected, is threatened,” police reports say.

NSW Police intelligence lists “the main” Calabrian Mafia clans as “the Sergi family, Trimboli family, Romeo family” who are all “based predominantly in the Griffith area.” Only a very small number of members of these families are engaged in crime and there are many Italian families who share these common surnames but who are not connected to the Calabrian Mafia.

“The criminal activities engaged in by this network have been engaged in for decades with a high level of success. Members of the network have occasionally been apprehended and imprisoned, but on the whole, internal wrangling appears to have exacted a higher toll, as family members are murdered not infrequently,” says one NSW police assessment.

In Victoria, court files allege that wealthy Melbourne businessman, Giuseppe “Bebbe” Manariti, was linked to the world’s biggest ecstasy importation in Melbourne in 2007.

Commonwealth prosecutors have alleged that Mr Manariti was briefed by the Mafia importers, stating that he was “interested in unfolding events” linked to the massive shipment.

Mr Manariti, who has never faced criminal charges, is a close associate of alleged Melbourne Mafia boss Tony Madafferi and the pair, along with deceased Mafia leader Rosario Gangemi, are considered by police to have previously formed a “trinity” that directed the Calabrian Mafia’s Melbourne operations.

Both Mr Manariti and Mr Madafferi were previously identified in a top secret 1995 anti-Mafia operation as members of the group also known as the Honoured Society.

Mr Madafferi could not be reached for comment but has previously denied any involvement in organised crime. Mr Manariti could not be reached for comment.

The police files also reveal that the Calabrian Mafia has built close ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs), including the Rebels and Bandidos.

“This is particularly evident with identified connections to the Sydney and North Coast Bandidos OMCG and the Canberra and Batemans Bay Rebels OMCG. There is also intelligence of links to the Finks OMCG through associates.”

Dr Gratteri’s warning about the diversion of resources away from the organised crime fight echoes a classified National Crime Authority report in 2003.

“It is suggested that they [Australia’s Mafia cells] will neither decline nor cease their activities in the foreseeable future due to their long entrenched history in criminality in Australia, the steady market demand for cannabis and other illicit drugs and the diversion of law enforcement efforts to other areas.”

Watch part two of a joint Fairfax and ABC Four Corners mafia investigation on ABC1 8.30 PM Monday.

One thought on “Terror diverts focus from Mafia ‘board of directors’

    Police uncovered rooms full of cannabis ‘marijuana’ plants at a Geebung warehouse.
    TWO men have been charged with producing dangerous drugs after police uncovered close to 1000 plants during a raid at Brisbane’s North .
    Police searched a vacant warehouse on Robinson Road, Geebung, on Monday night, uncovering a hydroponic cannabis lab.
    Video footage of the raid shows hundreds of extension cords powering a room filled with high-powered lights and cannabis plants.
    A police spokeswoman said the officers uncovered ” around 1000″ plants in multiple rooms.
    The men, aged 25 and 56, were each due to face one charge of producing a dangerous drug and two charges of possessing things used in the commission of crime, in Brisbane Magistrate Court.

    A LARGE -SCALE cannabis operation has been uncovered in Melbourne’s south-east after police stormed a series of houses.
    Detectives found 446 cannabis ‘marijuana’ plants after executing search warrants in Ashwood, Mount Waverly and Springvale, according to police.
    More than 260 plants were uncovered at a property in Arthur Street,Ashwood at about 2.30pm,
    before another raid revealed 178 plants in Leonie Avenue, Mount Waverly, a police spokesman said.
    Police raided the third house on Gunther Street in Springvale where officers seized an undisclosed amount of cash.
    Two men and a woman , all from Springvale, have been arrested and were taken into custody for questioning.

    THE BUST of a drug ring that led to the seizure of more than 700 cannabis plants and apprehension of 31 people will prompt police to seek changes to legislation covering the hydroponic industry.
    Police raided 60 properties linked to the industry over a five-day period and seized 711 cannabis ‘marijuana’ plants , 26kg of dried cannabis, 33 firearms, 12 vehicles and $91,805 cash.

    Of the 60 properties searched , 37 had grow houses present.
    Officers apprehended 31 people over the drug busts, ending an 11- month investigation into the sale of cannabis within the hydroponic industry.
    One of the accused , Arthur Tsitinaris,40, of Fulham allegedly ran a drug operation from “Harvest Time Hydroponics” on Port Road, Beverly.
    He faced the Adelaide Magistrates Court, where it was revealed he was an employee of the store and was allegedly busted making drug transactions with undercover police officers.
    South Australian Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Dickson said there was a strong link between the South Australian hydroponics industry and the sale of dried cannabis and cannabis plants.
    He said the bust would likely lead police to make a submission for legislative change to the “Hydroponics Industry Control Act” – which was introduced in 2010.
    “We will conduct a review and see if there’s any opportunity to further enhance the legislation,”
    Police Commissioner Mr Dickson said.
    “I would argue that, as a consequence of this investigation , we’ve identified that there are problems with that legislation.
    “It is anticipated in the future that we will speak to government around a legislative submission which focuses on prohibition and the licencing requirements of people working within the hydroponics industry”.
    Currently, the retail sale of proscribed hydroponics equipment , such as vapour lights, mercury lights and carbon filters, is illegal without a licence.
    It is legal to sell those items wholesale.
    There are no retail licences active in South Australia.
    Magistrate David Whittle granted Arthur Tsitinaris “home detention bail”.

    SA Police Assistant Commissioner Mr Dickson said another potential legislative change could include placing tighter restrictions on the wholesale sale of prescribed hydroponic equipment.
    He said the owners of four hydroponics businesses in metropolitan Adelaide had allegedly been selling prescribed equipment without a licence.
    He said they were also allegedly found selling dried cannabis and cannabis ‘marijuana’ plants directly out of their businesses.
    “At the time it was understood owners, employees and associates were selling cannabis and were focused on the selling of cannabis and cannabis plants,” he said.

    Police intelligence has raised concerns over a number of years that there’s a strong nexus between the “Hydroponics Industry” and the actual cultivation and sale of cannabis -‘marijuana’.
    “There were connections to “grow houses” … so to some extent there was a nexus between the grow houses and the shops and they supported the sale.
    “Those grow houses were growing the “cannabis clones” which were then being on sold.

    SA Police said the bust had removed more than 10,000 street deals of cannabis from the community.
    The four Hydroponic businesses allegedly found to supporting criminal activity are still operational.
    SA Police Commissioner said the investigation was ongoing and police had not ruled out further arrests or seizures.
    Most of the 31 people arrested or reported during the investigation , a mix of men and women aged 23 to 70, have all been bailed to appear in court at a later date.
    Just some of the charges include: – charged with:
    :Participate in a criminal organization.
    :Participate in a criminal activity, selling a commercial quantity of a controlled drug.
    :Selling a commercial quantity of a controlled plant.
    :Trafficking a large commercial quantity of a controlled drug.
    :Trafficking cannabis.
    :Selling prescribed equipment without a licence.
    :Supplying another with prescribed equipment
    :Cultivate cannabis.
    :Possess prescribed equipment.
    :Cultivate a large commercial quantity of a controlled plant.
    :Supplying another with prescribed equipment.
    :Interfere with electricity meter.
    :Theft of electricity.
    :Possess steroids.

    :711 cannabis plants. in different stages of growth and in numerous sized plastic pots
    :26 kilograms of dried cannabis, in assorted pre packaged plastic druggy bags. All high quality marijuana.
    :Plastic pot plant trays for different stages of marijuana plants growth.
    :Water spray mist bottles for watering young marijuana plants.
    :2 grams of amphetamine.
    :2 grams of cocaine.
    :33 registered firearms, including 17 handguns and 16 rifles. including a custom detachable Beretta under and over 12 gauge shotgun in a lockable carry case. Assorted rifles and shotguns in portable lockable carry cases.
    :$91,805 cash. in bundles of $100 & $50 crisp banknotes.
    :12 vehicles, including very expensive high performance sports cars and motorcycles, a boat, a expensive off road quad bike.
    :professional and commercial shelving to hold different stages of marijuana in grow houses.
    :Numerous items of prescribed hydroponic equipment.
    :Numerous equipment for the purpose of Drug weighing and manufacturing and packaging of marijuana for wholesale trafficking in the streets or on selling to drug dealers in further down the chain of cannabis trafficking…
    :Elaborate electricity bypass cabling and power point boards for the theft of electricity and for the clandestine cultivation and heating for the growing of cannabis.
    :hydroponic incubators for growing marijuana seedlings.
    :Hydroponic chemicals and containers for the use on marijuana cultivation.
    ;Foiled off walls to shield and hide marijuana plants and aide their growing.
    :37 cannabis grow houses, for the purpose of growing marijuana plants.


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