Nov 20 (Reuters) - A court handed down lengthy jail sentences on Monday at the end of one of Italy's largest-ever mafia trials which targeted the 'Ndrangheta crime group in its heartland in the southern region of Calabria.
The 'Ndrangheta has supplanted Sicily's Cosa Nostra as the country's most powerful mafia organisation, and has spread across Europe and the rest of the world. Here are a few facts about the fearsome group.
ORIGIN, CELEBRITY KIDNAPPING AND COCAINE
The 'Ndrangheta originates from Calabria, the impoverished southern region at the tip of Italy's boot. Its name is believed to come from the ancient Greek words "andros" and "agathos", meaning brave or valiant man.
It expanded substantially from the 1970s onwards, when it reinvested ransom money from kidnappings - one of its main activities at the time - into public work projects and drug trafficking, especially cocaine.
The 'Ndrangheta kidnapped dozens of high-profile victims, including celebrities such as John Paul Getty III, the scion of the U.S. oil family, abducted in Rome in 1973 and held prisoner for five months in the Calabrian mountains.
Getty's right ear was cut off to pressure his family into paying a reported $3 million - a story that was fictionalised in the Ridley Scott film "All the Money in the World" and in the Danny Boyle TV series "Trust".
POWER AND WEALTH
In a biannual report, Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) called the 'Ndrangheta "the absolute dominant force in the criminal world".
Its strength lies in its capacity to rely on traditional clan and family loyalties while having "maximum flexibility" in exploring new business opportunities in the legal and illegal economy, the DIA said.
In 2008, Italian research group Eurispes valued the 'Ndrangheta's annual turnover at a staggering 44 billion euros ($48 billion), about 3% of Italy's gross domestic product at the time.
The estimate has since been disputed by some experts, but most agree that the Calabrian mob is extremely powerful and wealthy, largely thanks to its role as a major smuggler of cocaine from Latin America to Europe.
The DIA said it also makes money from illegal waste trafficking, racketeering and loan sharking, typically offering credit to struggling businesses and then gradually taking over control of them.
The 'Ndrangheta is known to have an established presence as far as Canada and Australia, as well as in most of Western Europe, with local cells that usually retain strong links with their Calabrian homeland.
Italian prosecutors and investigators routinely complain that their European counterparts underestimate the extent to which the Calabrian mob has infiltrated their countries, and say all EU nations should copy Italy's tough anti-mafia laws.
Police across Europe arrested more than 100 people in May in a crackdown that targeted the group, with suspects accused of drugs and weapons trafficking with counterparts in Latin America. The network allegedly used Chinese money brokers in Italy and Colombia to help move funds to pay for drug deals.
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Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Alison Williams and Christina Fincher
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