Malea: the ‘Ndrangheta groups between Calabria and Luxembourg
Since the 1980s, a group of Calabrian entrepreneurs have been living in Luxembourg. Their sons now own pubs and restaurants. According to an investigation by the anti-Mafia prosecutor’s office, they are linked to a cosca from a small town in Calabria

October 11, 2023

Cecilia Anesi

On July 25th, Malea, the ancient Greek name of Mammola, a small village perched on the outskirts of Siderno, became the code name of an investigation by the Mobile Squad of Reggio Calabria, coordinated by the district anti-Mafia prosecutor’s office. Nineteen people were arrested at dawn, on charges of belonging to a ‘Ndrangheta locale. This was the first time that a judicial investigation had recorded and acknowledged, albeit at a preliminary stage, the existence of a ‘Ndrangheta locale operating in the town, known in the past for its stocco festival and its patron Saint Nicodemus, and now for its ‘Ndrangheta groups, operating both in the Ionian Sea and abroad, in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It was there, according to the investigation, that the ‘Ndrangheta of Mammola had set up an operating unit twenty years ago, led by Nicodemo Fiorenzi. Born in 1960, Fiorenzi is officially an employee of the Mammola forestry department, but is actually a permanent resident of Luxembourg. There, he acts as a representative and expat manager for the Mammola locale, tasked with «managing all the investments, legitimate as well as illicit, made by Mammola residents in the country», reads the custody order. In his day-to-day business, he manages the unit independently, but he must inform the top management of the ‘ndrina in Mammola on any relevant matter, receiving orders and instructions.
The investigation in a nutshell
  • On Tuesday July 25hth, “Malea” (the ancient Greek name of Mammola, a village on the Ionian coast of Calabria) became the code name of an investigation by the Reggio Calabria Mobile Squad, coordinated by the district anti-Mafia prosecutor’s office. Nineteen people were arrested at dawn, on charges of belonging to a ‘Ndrangheta locale
  • This is the first time that a judicial investigation (albeit a preliminary one) has acknowledged the existence of a ‘Ndrangheta locale in Mammola
  • The locale is headed by Rodolfo Scali, but it has a detachment in Luxembourg, led by Nicodemo Fiorenzi
  • Among those arrested in Luxembourg was Nicodemo Callà, a Mammolese restaurant owner who had arrived in Luxembourg in the 1980s following a feud
  • Operation Malea also traced the movements of several young Mammolese expats in Luxembourg, including Salvatore Scali, son of boss Rodolfo, who was arrested on charges of Mafia association
  • Through OpenLux, in 2021, IrpiMedia reported how the ‘Ndrangheta groups from Mammola and Siderno had established a stronghold in southern Luxembourg, mapping over twenty families. Operation Malea confirms what was only a suggestion two years ago

Until now, the ‘Ndrangheta in Mammola had only been documented in an «incidental and episodic manner» by judicial investigations, the examining magistrate wrote in the order, despite some of its members having been arrested in important investigations such as Crimine-Infinito (2010) and Minotauro (2011).

In 2021, as part of the OpenLux project, IrpiMedia documented the presence in Luxembourg of various individuals linked to the ‘Ndrangheta in Mammola and Siderno, but it had been impossible to determine whether the Scali, the dominant ‘ndrina in Mammola, also commanded a cell in Luxembourg, or whether their presence was a coincidence. A previous investigation, “Canadian Connection 2”, had shown how Santo Rumbo, the son of an important Siderno boss, had settled in Luxembourg. IrpiMedia’s research had shown how the catering business opened by Rumbo in Luxembourg had then passed into the hands of young men from Mammola, whom the Malea investigation confirms were also «sons of the family». Thanks to blood ties, there exists, in short, a continuity of the Mafia groups between Mammola and Luxembourg, branching out among members of twenty families surveyed by OpenLux, nine of which were targeted by the Malea operation.

Rise of a boss

The first intimation that Rodolfo Scali was the local boss of Mammola emerged during the Crimine-Infinito investigation, for which Scali was convicted in 2010, followed by the Turin prosecutor’s Operation Minotauro. Scali was described in the investigation as being responsible for the allocation of doti, (or dowries – the “positions” within the “board of directors” of “’Ndrangheta Inc.’) in the Cuorgnè, Piedmont locale. Scali, who has been at large since 2016, was portrayed in the Crimine-Infinito investigation as a heavyweight boss, one of the few who had the trust of Giuseppe Commisso (also known as “U Mastru”), then head of the eponymous ‘ndrina in Siderno and the entire province. Operation Malea started from the very moment Scali as released from prison, documenting a real rise to power. Scali emerges not only as «a simple “member of the secessionist cosca” – as he was described in the files of 2000’s operation Prima Luce – but [as] a man who had strengthened his role within the ‘Ndrangheta of the Ionian district, compared to what had already emerged in the well-known ‘Crimine’ and ‘Minotauro’ investigations», the prosecutors wrote.

Malea outlines the hierarchy of the entire club, with Rodolfo as the boss, assisted by Damiano Abbate as the capo-società and Nicodemo Deciso as maestro di giornata, effectively acting as a link between the bosses and the rest of the locale.

The power structure of the 'Ndrangheta

Most of what is currently known about the structure of the ‘Ndrangheta came from the discoveries made during the Crimine-Infinito trial. Although the ‘Ndrangheta is described as a unitary organisation in court rulings, it must be pointed out that the investigation focused on the structures of the organisation in the province of Reggio Calabria, «the “original ‘Ndrangheta” from the Aspromontane mountains, and the capital of the province”, researcher Anna Sergi explained in her essay La ‘Ndrangheta, part of a series on the Mafias published by Gazzetta dello Sport/Corriere della sera. Power structures in the organisation «are not exactly the same everywhere», even though, «especially outside the province, there appears to be a consistency and continuity in the manifestations and types of these structures, elsewhere in Calabria and beyond».

The basic unit of the ‘Ndrangheta is a family clan, which is called a ‘ndrina. Three or more ‘ndrine may constitute a locale, a territorial unit that may cover a neighbourhood, a village or a larger area. At the management level, a locale «exists as a support and territorial coordination mechanism between confederated ‘ndrine, to avoid conflicts, share burdens and protect families. For example, if someone is arrested, the locale pools money to support his family as needed: the so-called baciletta or bacinella», Anna Sergi explained. The locale has a capo-locale, also known as capo bastone, assisted by a lieutenant, known as mastro di giornata, acting as a spokesperson for the boss and coordinating communication between the società maggiore and società minore (“higher” and “lower society”). They are joined be a capo-crimine, who is in charge of planning and executing illegal activities, and a contabile (accountant), handling the finances.

The società maggiore is the coordinating command structure within a locale. It is usually a council of seven members who have reached at least the rank of santista. Its head, called the capo-società, is hierarchically just below the capo-locale, but in some locales the two ranks are assumed by the same person.

The bodies just above the locale are the mandamento and the Provincia. A mandamento unites several locali through liaison bosses; to date, there are three recognised mandamenti: one for Tyrrhenian side, one for the Ionic side and one central mandamento for the city of Reggio Calabria). The mandamenti are united in a higher, collegial ruling body, the Provincia, also known as the Crimine. This has been determined only for the province of Reggio Calabria, but «a similar, autonomous structure exists for the province of Crotone and probably (yet to be determined judicially) for the province of Vibo Valentia. A structure similar to a Crimine also exists in Canada, according to historical data. There are also crimine-like structures in Northern Italy», Sergi noted. In the territory of Reggio Calabria, each of the three mandamenti has a representative in the Provincia. The Provincia has its own distinct capo-crimine, who is not the head of all the ‘Ndrangheta bosses, but rather an super-coordinator for the territories, including those abroad. The Provincia oversees the general management of the ‘Ndrangheta, and can also be convened as a court of law for instances of misconduct.

Finally, the doti, or dowries, are the ranks of the individual clan members. A career track in the ‘Ndrangheta hinges on a combination of tradition of honour, and the possibility of that honour being recognised by peers. Consequently, several hierarchical ranks exist to recognise the member’s positions. The dowry is recognised, and then bestowed, by the Copiata (a sort of triumvirate consisting of the capo-locale, the capo-crimine and the contabile). Ranks in the società minore include picciotto, camorrista, and sgarrista. These are usually young members who start out doing criminal tasks for the ‘Ndrangheta – mostly basic dirty work. Over time, they can gain higher positions. The ranks of the società maggiore are – in hierarchical order: Santa, Vangelo (Gospel), trequartino, quartino, and padrino.

«The Santa (which until the 1980s was the highest rank) is a recognition that the person has interacted with the outside world successfully, and can continue to do so, especially in politics. In some places, there were also higher ranks such as associazione, croce, stella, crociata [society, cross, star, crusade], Garibaldi. Since the 1980s, there has been an inflation of doti: new ones keep appearing, probably also to confuse the authorities. The dowries are accompanied by affiliation rituals, part of the esoteric capital of the ‘Ndrangheta», Sergi wrote.

By wiretapping Rodolfo Scali, his son Salvatore Scali, Damiano Abbate, and their conversations with other important members of the group, it was «possible to obtain a true and faithful picture of the existence, functioning, and internal dynamics of the group itself» and to determine the roles of each member.

The investigations began in mid-2016 and found Mafia infiltration in the Mammolese community, with the ‘Ndrangheta controlling businesses and activities in the forestry sector via the extortion method, the production and trafficking of drugs, going so far as demanding protection money and controlling the operations during the festivities in honour of Saint Nicodemus.

Boss Rodolfo Scali, by now the true leader of the Mammolese Mafia organisation, valued his job as manager of the anti-State: «See how nothing happens here; not a theft, nothing happens, do you know how we’re keeping this town? Like a jewel! …And they arrest us anyway! …I had the bar with the pastry shop, and I didn’t have to close it», he said in a wiretapped conversation.

According to Operation Malea, the boss’s right-hand man is his son Salvatore, for whom Rodolfo has always had a soft spot. According to a pentito [former mobster turned informant], it was to keep him safe from investigations, that he had ‘sent him to Luxembourg’. As IrpiMedia has already reported with OpenLux, Salvatore Scali had a restaurant, called Romeo & Giulietta, in Differdange, a Luxembourg town on the border with France. Operation Malea clarified how Salvatore had been persuaded by his father not to invest in business activities in Turin and to emigrate to Luxembourg, where he could move with impunity, without risking arrest.

An armed Mafia

According to the findings of Operation Malea, the Mammolese cosca had several weapons at its disposal. In November 2017, boss Scali also suggested that one of his henchmen based in Luxembourg buy more, and store them in a warehouse for use by the ‘ndrina.

Scali was obsessed with weapons. He used them to intimidate, to collect extortion money and to maintain control over the territory. He owned several, including rifles for hunting wild boar, despite a restraining order that prevented him from owning pistols and rifles. In wiretapped telephone calls he tells of his particularly gruesome, illegal hunting trips, in which he was joined by Salvatore. This was also confirmed on his now-deleted Facebook profile, where Scali junior posed in camouflage next to the bodies of six wild boars.

It is unclear where the Scali kept their weapons, either for hunting or for the clan’s other operations. According to statements made by the pentito Antonio Ciccia in 2015, the Mammolese ‘Ndrangheta had a hideout in Piedmont (run by the local branch of the Cuorgnè locale), but other weapons from Luxembourg were destined for Mammola. The weapons were to be de-registered and transported in the truck of Nicodemo Deciso, whom the investigators indicate as the mastro di giornata for the Mammola locale. At the time, the man was employed by the Mammola-based Autotrasporti Sità. Another pentito, Nicodemo Ciccia, recounted this to the prosecutors in May 2021, recalling that «he used to do transport and sometimes stopped in Cuorgnè; I know he also travelled abroad, to Luxembourg, where there are other individuals from Mammola».

IrpiMedia also discovered the presence in Luxembourg of a young Sità, the owner of the transport firm where Deciso (who was in turn married to a Sità) worked. – The man was also linked to Deciso by having worked at his bar in Mammola, Caffè Deciso. The young Sità also managed a company in Luxembourg, Mammola sarl, which operated a pizza restaurant – Delizia – and a pastry shop – La Dolce Vita – both in Differdange. Both businesses closed after a few years, consistently with all the others analysed during the OpenLux investigation.

Something else that stands out is how Delizia was opened at the same address, rue Adolphe Kneps 29, where the Romeo & Giulietta restaurant, owned by Salvatore Scali, used to be. Today, a Sidernese-owned real estate firm can be found at this address, proving that the place has been changing hands among the expats of the Sidernese Ionian region.

The Rumbo model: small companies opening and closing in Luxembourg
The Mammola sarl – now liquidated – is reminiscent of I Bronzi sarl, another restaurant business opened in Differdange. It had been opened by two Mammolese brothers in 2014, but subsequently passed into the hands of Santo Rumbo, son of the Sidernese boss Riccardo. Its first venture was a yoghurt bar in the historic centre of Differdange. But the business was short-lived: it was declared “dormant”, that is, without any financial activity, in 2015. Then, in January 2019, it was taken over by a young man from Siderno who appointed Santo Rumbo and another 25-year-old Sidernese as managers. In March 2019, the three opened the Diff K’Fé Bar in the same area, which also became the headquarters of I Bronzi. The company’s financial statements only give information on its balance sheet, without any explanation for the losses (which amounted to 88,000 euro by 2019), and do not provide a clear picture of the profit and loss account. Luxembourg, as is generally the case with the flat-rate systems, does not require a company of this size to disclose profits or undergo regular auditing. There is, in short, no obligation to have a professional audit the financial statements. Another oddly managed company is SAA Sarl, opened by the former Mammolese CEO and owner of I Bronzi with a share capital of 1,000 euro. Registered in June 2019, it passed ten months later into the hands of Salvatore Scali, the son of the Mammolese boss Rodolfo. SAA started a restaurant, Romeo & Juliet, located just behind I Bronzi’s former yoghurt bar. This venture was also short-lived, and closed down in August 2020.. SAA and I Bronzi are both striking because of their small size (which makes them exempt from auditing), their limited assets, and the continued losses. Another similar company is Mammola sarl, opened by a young Mammolese man who is not being investigated by Operation Malea, who also owns the transport company where Nicodemo Deciso (currently charged of being a mastro di giornata) is a minority partner. The Sità are a family from Mammola, many members of which emigrated to the Charleroi area of Belgium after the war. There, the Sitàs built a small empire based on Italian food, including supermarkets and restaurants. Some of them later moved to Luxembourg, in the Differdange area. According to the six-monthly reports of Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigation Division (DIA), the Sità have a ‘ndrina in Charleroi. However, no investigation has been carried out to determine whether this ‘ndrina coincides with the aforementioned Sità family in Charleroi, and whether they are linked with the Sità family in Differdange. According to the investigators who arrested Santo Rumbo (who was later acquitted during the Canadian Connection 2 trial), it is an anomaly for companies with an initial injection of capital from Calabria to open and close businesses repeatedly during a very short time. This could be the sign of a precise strategy that the ‘Ndrangheta has used in other areas – in neighbouring Germany, for example – to launder dirty money. To confirm this, however, would require in-depth investigations, which are difficult to conduct via letters rogatory in a country such as Luxembourg, that is notorious for its banking and tax secrecy.

The Malea investigation also arrested Nicodemo Callà, known nas Bomba, born in 1963, who operated and invested in Luxembourg for years, undisturbed. According to the investigators’ reconstruction, Callà is a brother-in-law of Nicodemo Fiorenzi, head of the Mammolese branch in Luxembourg, helping him liaise between the Mammolese back home and the expats in Luxembourg. According to the accounts of pentito Antonio Ciccia, the ‘Ndrangheta presence in Luxembourg began with Callà, after he was forced to leave Calabria during a feud in the 1980s.

According to the pentito, Callà went to «settle in Luxembourg […] many years ago, following the murder of Isidoro Macrì [another local boss, with ties to the Sidernesi], which took place in Mammola in the 1980s. After the murder, to escape the revenge of the Macrì, Callà he had been sent away under orders from the local boss in Mammola, who wished to avoid a bloody feud. In addition to Nicodemo Callà, Isidoro’s brother Salvatore Macrì, was also sent away.

Company records show that Callà still owns the real estate firm I Tre Ghiottoni, registered in 2004 as a société civile, which does not require the filing of balance sheets. Callà joined the board in 2006, and early in 2022 became the owner of all shares in the company, together with his three sons and his wife, a Sità.

The former partner also owned the Bomba Grill restaurant in Differdange, possibly after Callà’s nickname, Bomba. From photos found on Facebook, the décor was reminiscent of the style seen in Mafia series and films, such as Scarface and The Godfather. The restaurant, which has since changed ownership, is now called Bellissimo, and run by a company owned by a young man from Mammola. The man was mentioned in the Malea investigation, as he is the brother-in-law of the presumed head of the Mammola unit, Damiano Abbate. According to the investigators, he was also involved in extortion against the managers of the Mammola amusement rides during the festival of Saint Nicodemus. The catering business was started by Abbate’s brother-in-law with another associate mentioned in operation Malea, who, according to the pentito Domenico Agresta, sold drugs to the Scali.

The Malea investigation, however, only touches on some of the individuals and companies mapped by OpenLux: the impression is that it is mostly the new generations that continue the family business in Luxembourg, receiving their fathers’ funds and laundering them in one of the world’s most notorious tax havens. Damiano Abbate made this clear to Rodolfo Scali: «What if we did something [in Luxembourg]? My brother-in-law and I want to invest 50,000 euro, 100,000 euro, there where you are, where your children are, so they can manage them; see if they’ll come and take that». In other words, the Italian authorities will never be able to track our investments in Luxembourg. Turns out, Abbate and Scali might have been onto something.



Cecilia Anesi


Lorenzo Bagnoli

In collaboration with

Luc Caregari

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Emmanuel Dunand/Getty