The structure of drug trafficking mafias: the ‘Ndrangheta and cocaine

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66 Citazioni (Scopus)


The paper analyses the social organization of two drug trafficking mafia groups. The groups belonged to the'Ndrangheta, a mafia from Calabria, a Southern Italian region. Based on judicial sources, multiple linked analyses examine the tasks, statuses and social network structures of the two groups. The analyses showed that the formal hierarchy of the mafias does not play a relevant role in the organization of drug trafficking. At the same time, the two groups exhibited a particular organizational structure, with a clear division of tasks and signals of status differentiation among the members. Remarkably, the analyses highlighted the strate-gic positioning of the criminal leaders. The most prominent participants (high-status individuals) were not those most involved in criminal activities (i.e. the most central in the network). This positioning strategy allowed minimizing the risks and ensuring effective management of smuggling operations. Criminal leaders were able to control the activities thanks to the specific cultural, family, kinship and ritual ties characterizing the mafias. This specific organizational structure may explain the strong resilience of mafias to law enforcement action. Implications for both research and law enforcement are discussed
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)321-349
Numero di pagine29
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2012


  • cocaine
  • content analysis
  • drug trafficking
  • mafias
  • organised crime
  • social network analysis


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