Criminal economy: Mexican cartels VS. Italian mafias

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The most famous Italian mafia in the world still generates unimaginable riches, but Mexican criminal organizations have reached comparable levels

Criminal economy: Mexican cartels VS. Italian mafias

At the beginning of December, the authorities of six European countries carried out a series of joint operations against the 'Ndrangheta Mafia of Italy. The result of the ambitious operation, coordinated by Eurojust and Europol, was the arrest of around 80 people with apparent links to the mafia and the seizure of 140 kilos of ecstasy and 3,000 to 4,000 kilos of cocaine, according to Reuters.

Leer en español: Economía criminal: Carteles mexicanos VS. Mafias italianas

The huge arrest unveiled the scale of this Italian crime family, one of the largest criminal organizations in the world, whose activities, according to Europol reports, spread throughout Europe and crossed the oceans to the United States, Canada, Australia and Colombia.

The 'Ndrangheta is not the only criminal organization of that size in the world, it is not even the only one in Italy, transnational crime is a highly lucrative business and the money figures that move, although very difficult to know for sure, are impressive, and comparable with some of the largest legal industries in the world .

Italy is home to two of the richest criminal organizations

Within Italy there are several families that dispute international criminal networks, but two stand out above all: the aforementioned 'Ndrangheta, from the Calabria region in the south of the country, and the renowned Cosa Nostra of Sicily.

The income of the first is ridiculous, particularly when compared to some licit industries. According to the English newspaper The Guardian, in 2014 the profits of the 'Ndrangheta reached 53 billion euros, the equivalent of 3.5% of Italian gross domestic product , and more than the profits of McDonald's and Deutsche Bank during the same year.

A study by the Demoskopika Institute, cited by The Guardian, states that 24.2 billion euros come from drug trafficking and 19.6 billion euros come from the commission of environmental crimes, such as the illegal disposal of garbage.

According to the Al Jazeera newspaper, 'Ndrangheta controls 80% of Europe's drug trade . If it were a company it would be the fifth largest in Italy, and if it were a country, its economy would be number 68 in the world, located above Luxembourg and below Sri Lanka.

The Cosa Nostra of Sicily, perhaps much better known for the novel The Godfather of Mario Puzo and its adaptation to the cinema by Francis Ford Coppola, is at this time the second largest in Italy. Although they continue to amass riches, their numbers do not compare with what is now the most powerful criminal organization in Italy, although not in the world.

The Sinaloa cartel, the largest in Latin America

As in Italy, within Mexico, there are several cartels that fight for access to international criminal markets. Several, however, are falling, as the Gulf Cartel, which has seen many of its leaders are dead or captured by the authorities, which has made portals like CNN consider that now they only operate as fragmented groups.

However, a cartel that continues to dominate the international criminal landscape, despite the blows that the Mexican authorities have caused, is the Sinaloa Cartel.

Founded by Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán in 1988 and based in the city of Culiacán in the State of Sinaloa, the exact profits of the largest cartel in Mexico and Latin America are very difficult to pin down.

According to The New York Times, this organization generates between 18,000 and 36,000 million dollars a year in profits only from the sale of drugs in the United States . The lack of accuracy of these figures, however, complicates knowing the exact size of the business.

You might also be interested: The Sinaloa Cartel would have more aircraft than Qatar Airways and Air France

Other studies, such as that of the think tank Rand Corporation, estimate that the total profits in this same item should not exceed 6.6 billion dollars per year. Similarly, the figure is huge and would put the Sinaloa Cartel to compete with companies the size of Netflix or Facebook, which move similar amounts of money each year.

Although Latin America has a long history of participation in transnational criminal networks, the figures that bill the largest cartel in the region seems to lag behind those of the Italian mafia.


LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal

Translated from "Carteles mexicanos VS. mafias italianas"

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