Greek mafia

This article is about ethnic Greek organized crime in general or ethnic Greek criminal organizations based mainly in Greece. For Greek-American criminal organizations sometimes known as the "Greek Mafia", see Philadelphia Greek Mob and Velentzas crime family.
Greek Mafia
Founding location Greece
Territory Greece, Albania, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, France, United States (Cypriots), Australia, Canada, Cyprus, South Africa, and other parts of Africa
Ethnicity Greeks, Maniots, Greek Cypriots, Cretan Greeks, Pontic Greeks, Greek Macedonians, Greek Epirotes, Thracian Greeks
Membership Greek Americans, Athenians, Peloponnesians, Cretans, Cypriots, various other Greek islanders, Pontic Greeks
Criminal activities Drug trafficking, arms trafficking, assassination, assault, bank fraud, bankruptcy, blackmailing, bribery, bombing, contract killing, extortion, fraud, entryism, illegal gambling, Insurance fraud, kidnapping, money laundering, murder, police corruption, political corruption, protection racket, racketeering, tax evasion, witness intimidation, witness tampering
Allies Sicilian mafia, Camorra, Russian mob, Albanian mafia, Philadelphia Greek Mob, Velentzas crime family

The Greek Mafia is the colloquial term used to refer to various organized crime elements originating from Greece. Indigenous organized criminal groups are well-entrenched in the largest Greek urban centers, particularly in Athens. This is not only in thanks to the widespread political corruption in the country itself.[1] The Greek mafia should not be confused with Greek street gangs, who take part in smaller street crime. Outside of the domestic Greek criminal organizations the Sicilian mafia, Camorra, the Albanian, Russian and Georgian mafia groups have been operating in Greece in collaboration with the domestic criminal syndicates.[2]

In the United States, the term "Greek Mafia" may also include or refer specifically to various Greek-American organized crime groups. Notable ethnic Greek or Greek-American organized crime groups in the United States include the Philadelphia Greek Mob in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Velentzas crime family in New York City. Greek-American crime groups vary in the extent of their connections to Greek mafia groups in Europe; some Greek-American crime groups may be only loosely connected or even completely independent of Greek mafia groups in Europe, while certain Greek-American crime groups may essentially be American extensions of Greek mafia groups in Europe.

Godfathers of the night

Greek crime bosses are locally described as νονοί της νύχτας (translated as "Godfathers of the night"). Largely operating as owners of nightclubs, Greek crime groups are able to operate their illegal businesses from there on.[3] In contrast to the Sicilian mafia or the Albanian mafia, Greek criminal groups follow the same structure organized gangs have within the French Milieu or the Penose in the Netherlands. Domestically, they are largely smaller organized crime cells, sometimes family-based, who collaborate but from time to time also feud with one another. There are close to 217 known domestic crime lords operating in the country.[4] Internationally, the smuggling and racketeering practices have a larger reach, and are not necessarily based on Greek nationals alone. With the need to infiltrate and manipulate multiple types of businesses in order to successfully smuggle internationally, more often than not such organisations resemble professional international cartels rather than traditional organised crime groups.


A substantial amount of Greek organised crime groups are centered in Athens. However, many other (semi) organised groups operate throughout other cities, and even villages. Criminal clans can have their origins from all over Greece: Mafia groups in the bigger cities are especially involved in racketeering, the illegal smuggling of oil, money laundering, weapon and drug trafficking as well as murder.[5]

Criminal groups on the Greek mainland have also profited from the activities of corrupt officials. Arms, narcotics and illegal oil are smuggled by Greek criminal organizations, often in collaboration with Albanian or Russian mafia groups, from local seaports to important destination centers such as the docks of Naples or Antwerp.[1] (Cretan mafia) Outside of the urban centers, the island of Crete is known for having regional family-based crime clans involved in the cultivating and trafficking of marihuana on a domestic as well as an international level. Kidnapping and weapon trafficking are activities of choice as well, often collaborating with the Albanian mafia.[1] An example is the village Zoniana which is a known ground zero for Cretan drug lords, such as the Parasyris family.[6] In general, Greek organised crime groups are active on the Greek mainland, as well as in other parts of Europe. Activity is mainly focused upon the areas of cigarette smuggling and the trafficking of marihuana, hashish and weapons. European cities are deeply affected by Greek organized crime in the form of narcotics smuggling.[7] Recently, under pressure from the European union, Greece, and numerous other European countries, have stepped up their war on smuggling, making numerous arrests and otherwise disabling the organizations in collaboration with European law enforcement agencies.[8][9] [10]

In Greece

With Greece holding a large percentage of the world's maritime merchant shipping, a substantial amount of Greek grown marijuana is shipped throughout Europe on a yearly basis. Grown on remote farms and fields, mainly on the island of Crete and the Peloponnese peninsula, it has found its way into the heart of most western and middle-European cities, regardless of efforts made to halt this phenomenon.[11]

In the Netherlands

The Netherlands in particular, with its lenient view of cannabis use, has many dealings with international (and often untraceable) smuggling rings. This is also made possible by the extensive use of maritime merchant ships, and their difficult to regulate and inspect cargo. The "tolerating" laws regarding cannabis, make the selling and usage of marijuana, legal in the Netherlands. However, the cultivation and transportation of cannabis is still illegal. This offers smugglers a strong market with high demand for their product.[12] it is speculated that for a large part, Greek-based cartels are at work. However, prosecuting such members is difficult due to the non-hierarchical nature of the organisation(s).

In the United States

American cities with a large Greek community have traditionally also been home to ethnic Greek criminal organizations, well-known ones being the Velentzas crime family and the Philadelphia Greek Mob.[13] These organizations, have secretly operated for decades, and are notoriously powerful.

In Africa

In Africa, A small Greek crime syndicate ran casinos throughout the region of middle Africa, and in the country of South-Africa throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Gambling has always been a staple of the Greeks. Horse racing, cards, casinos and black market dealings. It is safe to assume that Greek-organised crime is difficult to disintegrate, since these groups form, break-up and reform when it suits their interest. For this reason it is often compared to the Italian Camorra, which at times has worked on a similar model. Major differences the Italian Camorra relies mainly on extortion and racketeering, whereas Greek organised crime relies mainly on smuggling.[14]

In other countries around the world

Secretive Greek Cypriot crime families are known to operate in Cyprus, The United Kingdom, as well as South Africa. Cypriots, although ethnically Greek, have their own traditions and have always had a strong tradition of organised crime, similar to their brethren on the mainland and the island of Crete. The Cypriots tend to operate in small family-like cells, with a "father", his "sons" and a few associates. Working with fellow local criminals, which tends to benefit all parties involved, the Greek-Cypriot mafia will accept other nationalities inside their family-like cells. It is difficult to estimate the level of international structure binding them all together. Since they have managed to operate for this long one in high secrecy they are, most likely, informally structured. Cypriot families are very powerful and known to be dangerous. There is also a presence of organised crime among Pontic Greeks who, like Cypriots, are ethnically Greek, but have their own traditions. Outside of the Americas and Europe, there is also reportedly a strong Greek organised crime presence in Australia. Greek members of organised crime have always been good at working with other ethnic groups along with their own local Greek groupings, which can at times give them an advantage over other organisations. There was also reportedly a Greek presence in the Chicago mafia, known as the outfit, the number two or three man for years. Depending on various reports it was Gus Alex. The Chicago outfit, unlike the New York family's, has had high ranking associates in positions of real importance and power over the years. Gus Alex was the highest ranking non Italian associate, as he reportedly formed a three-man ruling panel in the late sixties early seventies. The three-man ruling panel, consisting of a Greek and two Italians, ran the Chicago outfit for an unknown period of time.


  1. 1 2 3
  3. "Πέπλο τρόμου στη νύχτα". Espresso. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  4. artemis. "Νονοί της νύχτας: Τα μεγάλα ονόματα". Direct News. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  5. phaistos networks s.a. " - Καθημερινή ενημέρωση με ειδήσεις και θέματα από την Ελλάδα και τον κόσμο". Pathfinder. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  6. "Με το κόμμα της Ντόρας είχε κατέβει ο εκ των αρχηγών της μαφίας στην Κρήτη!  ::". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  7. " - ΚΟΣΜΟΣ : Οι μαφιόζοι των ημερών μας". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  8. "Regional organized crime empowered in Southeastern Europe". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  9. A. Makris. "Cyprus: Five Arrested for 26 kg of Cannabis". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  10. "Greek man extradited to Cyprus to face drugs charges". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  11. "1,800-Pound Marijuana Stash Found On Greek Beach In Kyllini, Police Search For Drug Smuggling Gang". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  12. "The connection between Amsterdam's coffeeshops and organized crime -". Amsterdam Tourist Information. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  13. "PHILADELPHIA'S UNDERWORLD WAR - 2 IN 'GREEK MOB' FALL -". 31 May 1981. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  14. "Drugs seized in Igumenica. Albanian driver arrested - Top Channel". Retrieved 26 December 2014.

External links

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