|Founding location||Apulia, Italy|
|Territory||Apulia, Modena, Mantova and Reggio Emilia in Italy; Presence also in Albania, Spain, Germany, United States and in the United Kingdom.|
|Criminal activities||Cigarette smuggling, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, political corruption, prostitution, usury|
Balkans criminal organizations
|Rivals||Internal wars between clans of the SCU|
Sacra Corona Unita (pronounced [ˈsaːkra koˈroːna uˈniːta], Italian for "United Sacred Crown"; initialism SCU) is a Mafia-type criminal organization from the Apulia region in Southern Italy, and is especially active in the areas of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto.
The name of the organization is formed by three words, rooting it in the classic mafia's anti-culture.
The Sacra Corona Unita was founded in 1981 as the Nuova Grande Camorra Pugliese by Camorra boss Raffaele Cutolo, who wanted to expand his operations into the Italian region of Apulia. However, with Cutolo's downfall a few years later the organization began operating separately under the leadership of Giuseppe Rogoli. According to one account of Rogoli's rise to leadership, it is said that the legendary Apulian crime boss was inspired by (and allegedly sanctioned by) various Calabrian 'Ndrangheta leaders imprisoned in the Trani jail, on the coast north of Bari, the capital of the region, to form a new criminal organization based in Apulia with himself at its head. Legend has it that on Christmas Day, 1983, Rogoli, with several of his imprisoned followers and several Calabrian mafia leaders (one Calabrian was rumoured to be the capobastone of the powerful Bellocco clan) came together in Rogoli's cell where he was officially initiated and sanctioned as the supreme head of the newly formed SCU. However, secret documents pertaining to the history of the SCU were eventually seized by the Italian law enforcement agencies and show that the reported ceremony actually took place in May 1983, not on the Christmas Day of legend. The December 25th date was probably used by SCU leaders to underline the great importance of the legendary ceremony. Whatever the correct date may be, Giuseppe Rogoli will be remembered as the founder of Sacra Corona Unita. Under his leadership the SCU mixed Apulian interests and opportunities with 'Ndrangheta and Camorra traditions.
Originally preying on the region's substantial wine and olive oil industries, the group moved into cigarette smuggling, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, and political corruption.
According to a survey conducted by the Eurispes the main sources of income of the organization are:
The SCU is made up of three distinct groupings or levels. Members can 'graduate' from one level to the next by going through riti battesimali (baptismal rites). The religious symbolism is probably left over from the SCU's association with the Camorra.
The Sacra Corona Unita consists of about 50 clans with approximately 2,000 members and specializes in smuggling cigarettes, drugs, arms, and people. The Sacra Corona Unita collects payoffs from other criminal groups for landing rights on the southeast coast of Italy.
The Sacra Corona Unita has the Apulian region as their main territory, however, their presence is also known in other parts of Italy, specially in Modena, Mantova and Reggio Emilia. Outside Italy, the organization has a presence in Albania, Spain, Germany, United States and in the United Kingdom.
Albania is a point of arrive for huge quantities of smuggled cigarettes and drugs from Afghanistan.
With the decreasing importance of the Adriatic corridor as a smuggling canal (thanks to the normalization of the Balkans area) and a series of successful police and judicial operations against it in recent years the Sacra Corona Unita has been reduced to a fraction of its former power, which peaked around the mid-1990s.
Informer Cosimo Capodieci said the SCU used "the Corona because it resembles a crown, meaning the rosary typically used in Church in order to carry out the functions of Jesus Christ and the cross... Unita because it was necessary to be connected to one another, similar to the rings of a chain."
Giuseppe Rogoli, one of the founders of the SCU, was an affiliated of the 'Ndrangheta in Apulia, even before the creation of the Sacra Corona Unita. The SCU, after Cutolo's downfall, can be considered an offshoot of the 'Ndrangheta in the region, due to Rogoli asked for the permission of the Capobastone Umberto Bellocco to create an "Apulian 'Ndrangheta", which becomes the today's Sacra Corona Unita.
On 13 November 2017, the operation Lampo ended, lasting three years and started from the Sant'Anna operation, which arrested 10 alleged affiliates of the SCU and its alleged head Cataldo Caporosso operating in Massafra, Statte, Palagiano and in the Tamburi district of Taranto. The coterie had entered the fish and local cocaine market. The criminal activities of the criminal association would always have been endorsed by the 'Ndrangheta boss Umberto Bellocco who, after 21 years in prison, would have met the Sacra Corona Unita member Cataldo Caporosso and conferred on him the dowry of padrino.
On 14 November 2018, the operation Galassia of the Guardia di Finanza ended, in which the presumed member of the Pesce-Bellocco 'ndrina, Antonio Zungri, some members of the Tegano 'ndrina and perhaps of the Piromalli 'ndrina together with the Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita's Capriati and Parisi clans were illegally included in the commercial network of the online betting companies Planetwin365, Betaland, Enjoybet and Planetwin. The Apulian clans set up its own foreign bookmaker with interests and projections in Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania, Vietnam, Panama, Paraguay, Argentina and Russia. In this operation were seized assets worth over €1 billion, while over 80 searches have been carried out throughout Italy.
Although the first structured criminal organization in Apulia has been created by the Nuova Camorra Organizzata, preceding the SCU, the Apulian underworld frowned upon their region being dominated by an outside organization. Taking advantage of the Cutolo's downfall, the local criminals distanced themselves of the Camorra and get more aligned to the 'Ndrangheta.
The Albanian Mafia seems to have established good working relationships with the Sacra Corona Unita, On 27 July 1999 police in Durrës (Albania), with Italian assistance arrested one of the godfathers of the Sacra Corona Unita. This Albanian link seems to confirm that the Sacra Corona Unita and the Albanian mafia are "partners" in Apulia and delegate several criminal activities.
The internal difficulties of the SCU aided the birth of antagonistic criminal groups such as:
The murder of Giuseppe Laviano, lieutenant of the Sacra Corona Unita in Foggia (whose body was never found), in January 1989, mark a turning point in the mafia war and the rise of Rocco Moretti, known as il porco (the pig), in the context of the Foggia organized crime at the expense of Laviano himself. After the murder, Moretti became the head of the new criminal organization (Società Foggiana) in Foggia. Following the arrests made by the police in the Mantide operation, among the many details, macabre revelations also emerged, such as the photo of Laviano's severed head, shown to the main members of the Società Foggiana during the summits.
The relations between the Foggia delinquency and the Camorra are probably the oldest and deepest ones. The Foggia delinquency has managed to make the qualitative leap thanks to the Camorra, particularly the Nuova Camorra Organizzata; during the NCO period many "Cutoliani" spent the periods of imprisonment in the prisons of San Severo and Foggia taking contacts with the local delinquency and affiliating some characters. Raffaele Cutolo's sister, Rosetta Cutolo, lived in San Severo in an obliged stay. Cutolo even organized a sort of offshoot of the NCO in northern Apulia, the Nuova Camorra Pugliese; the killing of Don Peppe Sciorio, Lieutenant of Cutolo for Foggia, was another clear sign that the Foggia criminals wanted to become independent.
The most powerful clans inside the Società Foggiana are the Trisciuoglio clan, the Sinesi-Francavilla clan' and the Moretti-Pellegrino-Lanza clan.
In September 2019, the Italian police dismantled an international drug trafficking alliance between the powerful Gionta clan of the Camorra, the Società Foggiana, and Moroccan drug traffickers. The investigation started in 2016 against a Maghreb gang based in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The vast network of drug traffickers, extended from Morocco, passing through Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands to finally arrive in Trentino and in Bolzano. Arriving in Italy, the drugs were sold in parks, historic centers and near schools by mainly Tunisian and Moroccan pushers. Nineteen people were arrested, four are still being wanted in Italy, Spain and in the Netherlands and seventy-three are under investigation. In the operation were seized over 1 ton of hashish and 2 kg of cocaine.