The Mafia’s Secret Bunkers

Wednesday 1 May



As Italy battled for years with the notorious Sicilian Mafia Cosa Nostra, a secretive and insidious criminal syndicate was quietly growing to the top of Italy’s organised crime.

Rooted in the Southern region of Calabria, the ‘Ndrangheta is a shadowy mafia brotherhood whose members have become Europe’s biggest cocaine traffickers and who, through extortion and corruption, exercise control over all aspects of Calabrian society.

Author and Mafia historian John Dickie travels to Calabria, the tip of Italy’s boot, where he gains unique access to the sophisticated underground bunkers carved below villages, below sliding staircases and even inside pizza ovens, which the ‘Ndrangheta gangsters use for hiding out. He also witnesses the hi-tech war being fought by the Italian authorities against these ruthless criminals.

In this hour-long documentary for the BBC’s award-winning This World strand, John Dickie travels with an elite special forces unit called the Cacciatori ('The Hunters'), who operate mostly at night to uncover the mafiosi's hideouts. The authorities’ battle against the ‘Ndrangheta resembles a full-scale counter-insurgency, using spy planes and supergrasses, as well as a battle for hearts and minds to overcome a culture of silence where the population remains reluctant, or too afraid, to cooperate with the law.