Life of Camorra mafia in Aberdeen revealed in new book

Union Street in Aberdeen. A small Camorra cell operated in the city for more than a decade.
Union Street in Aberdeen. A small Camorra cell operated in the city for more than a decade.
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Mondragone, a coastal Italian municipality 28 miles north of Naples, appears to have little in common with the granite city of Aberdeen.

But these two disparate regions were both bases for the Camorra, the infamous mafia-style crime syndicate which originated in southern Italy, during the 1990s.

For years, sensationalist headlines suggested sinister Mob bosses were running large-scale operations in Scotland’s third-largest city.

In 2014, an EU-funded report by Italian crime experts went so far as to state the Camorra was in control of “catering, public works, food retail and wholesale and property sectors” - a claim strongly denied by the 600-strong Italian community in Aberdeen.

Now a new book has revealed that Camorra operations in the city bore little resemblance to Hollywood depictions of mafioso life. Instead they were centred around the work of a handful of people who moved to Scotland, many of them to avoid charges in Italy.

Dr Felia Allum, an academic at Bath University, spoke to members of organised crime gangs who gave evidence against former colleagues and live under witness protection for her book The Invisible Camorra.

Among them was a cousin of the La Torre brothers who set up a cell in Aberdeen to launder money from criminal activity in Italy over a 16 year period.

The La Torre clan hailed from Mondragone and had representatives in Scotland from 1984-2005. Dr Allum said the operation was deliberately low-key and was not known to engage in acts of violence.

“In Aberdeen, the operating cell was solely involved in transferring money from Italy,” said Dr Allum.

“They ran legitimate businesses funded by illicitly acquired money made in Mondragone. Although not a true crime in the UK, money transfers meant the infiltration of the Scottish economy by a Camorra clan.

“Aberdeen was a tiny cell - members resided here as part of a looser La Torre network that also had other cells in the north of Italy and Europe.

“The members in Aberdeen were careful, strategic and adopted a constant reactive approach to maintaining the operation of the cell.”

Following press reports in the early 1990s, the cell temporarily disbanded to avoid detection.

She continued: “It was a business network with operating bases in Aberdeen and Amsterdam. The operations abroad were neither separate nor autonomous branches but one and the same organisation - Aberdeen was a natural extension of the Mondragone clan.

“They were different bases, both of the same importance. Amsterdam was important for drugs and Aberdeen was important for finance.”

The cell was defunct by 2005 when Antonio La Torre, an Aberdeen restaurant owner dubbed “The Don on the Don”, was extradited to Italy to serve a 13-year prison sentence which had been imposed by a Naples court in his absence for a range of crimes, including racketeering, extortion, robbery and the production of counterfeit money.

The extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told that La Torre, 51, was the head of the notorious La Torre crime clan and a member of the Camorra.

The Italian government’s anti-Mafia department in Naples described La Torre as being “the undisputed head of a criminal organisation, directing its activities, programming numerous acts of extortion”.

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