Italian court names two Australians as Mafia leaders

Two successful Australian businessmen, one of whom is a political donor have been named as the bosses “capos” of a large international mafia organization.

Fruit and vegetable millionaires Tony Madafferi and Diego (Danny) Luppino have been identified in papers filed in an Italian court as doing business with the ‘Ndrangheta.

Interestingly, the arrest warrants were for other individuals and the businessmen have not been accused of any crime in Australia or Italy. However, an anti-mafia force, during Operation Eyphemos, acquired phone-tap records implicating them with senior ‘Ndrangheta individuals. This led to a large investigation and eventual arrest of 65 men for political corruption and extortion in the ‘Ndrangheta Italian headquarters in Calabria.

Diego "Danny" Luppino at his fruit stall at Dandenong market

Diego “Danny” Luppino at his fruit stall at Dandenong market

Domenic Forgione, an Australian, was one of those arrested. He was corrupted by the mafia group while holding political office in Calabria.

The court papers also reference the Alvaro Mafia who is active in Australia and Calabria. They are known to Australian authorities for their activities in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Mr Madafferi and Mr Luppino emphatically deny all the allegations. Dom, Mr Luppino’s son said “They are baseless. There is no suggestion that Mr Madafferi or my father are involved in criminal activity, only that they have been named in the Italian anti-mafia directorate’s brief of evidence.”

The court papers reveal a different story of family power, mafia traditions and an underworld crime network spanning the globe. They allege Mr Luppino had dealings with Cosimo Cannizzaro, an old-timer Calabrian mafia boss who actually stayed at Mr Luppino’s house in Melbourne.

Damning WireTap Evidence

Mr Cannizzaro was placed on house arrest in Italy on February 26. Some of the phone taps that were obtained have him claiming that Mr Luppino kept insisting that he become a part of his successful Australian business enterprises and that Mr Luppino knew full well who Mr Cannizzaro was and his high position in the ‘Ndrangheta.

Melbourne Mafia Boss Tony Madafferi

Melbourne Mafia Boss Tony Madafferi

The authorities also have a recording from Mr Luppino’s home where seven people were counting cash. The Italian police believe this was obtained under nefarious circumstances however the recording could just as well be interpreted as the cash having come from Mr Luppino’s successful fruit and vegetable business.

Mr Luppino’s son, Dom says “They are just friends. They were friends as young boys. He loves my father.”

Mr Cannizzaro is also on a recording stating how Mr Luppino and other Australian mafia bosses asked for his help involving a ‘breach of honor’ in a relationship between a woman and an Australian mafia member. That mafia member was made to pay a ‘dowry’ and was stripped of his standing in the organization.

A Fixture at Dandenong since the 1960s

Since the 1960s, Diego Luppino has been a regular at the Dandenong market and is very well known in the produce business. Ben Carroll, an Australian politician, said of Mr Luppino in 2012 that it was his “honor and privilege to present Diego Luppino” with a lifetime membership in an Italian community association – which happened to be backed by Mr Carroll.

Danny Luppino and son Dom at Dandenong Market

Danny Luppino and son Dom at Dandenong Market

In yet another incident, Mr Cannizzaro describes Tony Madafferi on a recording as “il capo bastone” (the chief stick) – a boss in the ‘Ndrangheta Australian arm.

In the 1990s, Mr Madafferi was also named twice as a suspected hitman in the murders of two shopkeepers. In 2015 he also attempted to get Australian newspaper ‘The Age’ to give up its’ sources who revealed his political donations.

Italian corporate records show that Mr Madafferi, Mr Luppino and the now-deceased Rosario Gangemi (a mafia boss) were in business together between 1988 and 2000.

Rosario "Ross the Boss" Gangemi

Rosario “Ross the Boss” Gangemi

Over the past decade, Mr Madafferi has also been making headlines by lobbying against the deportation from Australia of his brother, drug trafficker Francesco Madafferi.

Mr Madafferi said to a homicide detective in 1992 that “I am a man who is very well respected” and, that Australian mafia boss Liborio Benvenuto was “A very good man. Very honest and he was respected everywhere.”