Two Italian residents of canton Thurgau have been jailed for belonging to a local Swiss branch of the ‘Ndrangheta, a criminal organisation based in Calabria.
The Reggio di Calabria court in Italy sentenced the two men to 12 and 14 years in prison. The prosecution had pushed for terms up to 16 years.
The two men were arrested in Calabria in August 2014 in a Swiss-Italian joint investigation, together with 14 other people. All allegedly belonged to a Thurgau mafia base that had been operating for 40 years.
Crucial to the case was hidden camera video footage of the group meeting in Frauenfeld, in which members made oaths and drugs and arms trafficking were discussed. Prosecutors said this was evidence of the possible crimes committed and the rites performed were also found in other mafia cell operations.
Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said: “We have proved that even in German-speaking Switzerland an off-shoot of the ‘Ndrangheta has been operating for decades.”
One of the convicted men is appealing the decision. His lawyer Giovanni Vecchio argued they only met to play cards and the oaths were said as a joke. “An investigation would prove no real criminal acts involving drugs or weapons were committed by these men in Switzerland.”
Back in May 2011, a member of the ’Ndrangheta who had lived in Frauenfeld was arrested in Genoa. That year, anti-mafia authorities in Calabria presented information on international networks of the ’Ndrangheta with significant branches in Germany and Switzerland, especially in Frauenfeld and Zurich.
At the time the Swiss attorney general said Switzerland was appreciated by the mafia because of its “economy and financial centre as well as its infrastructure” and as a sort of logistical platform where money could be laundered – and not only through banks and trustees, but also by investing in property.
swissinfo.ch and agencies