Social Network Analysis of Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) and Terrorist Organizations (TOs) Between Europe and South America


Roland Blatnik

20 November 2016

Through Social Network Analysis (SNA) Linkages to Reduce Terrorism and Organized Crime is Likely

Executive Summary:

Through the study of Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) and Terrorist Organizations (TOs) in Social Network Analysis (SNA), it is likely to create openings for the elimination, weakening, or isolation of these groups by manipulating their linkages to other organizations. The support for this SNA study is on the motivations, operating methods, and resources required to sustain growth for both OCGs and TOs. Leading in this SNA, and the focus of this paper, is the ‘Ndrangheta (an Italian Mafia group) for the OCGs due to the adjusted centrality scores. Meanwhile Hezbollah’s brief discussion is due to its unadjusted centrality scores, even though it is a major group to target as well. All this is to develop a means of visualizing the social networks between South America and Europe, in order to reduce growth of organized crime and terrorism by disrupting linkages.


Through the course of Advanced Analytic Techniques, I sought to identify and create a project around the methodology of Social Network Analysis (SNA). Particularly an “SNA of Terrorist Organizations (TOs) and Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) Between Europe and South America.” This is all in order to identify the major groups that if taken out of the network would dismantle the majority of the network. The results point to the ‘Ndrangheta as the primary group and Hezbollah as the second major group to target.

The pool of groups included 25 OCGs and TOs between South America, Europe, and through connections the Middle East. Groups included for TOs in the Middle East are Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic State, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, and Iran’s Quds Force. For European OCGs the ‘Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra, Solntsevskaya Bratva (Russian Brotherhood), and Chechen Mafia are the major groups. While for South America there are the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, Gulf Cartel, Juarez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), Knights Templar, Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, Bolivian drug gangs, Los Urabeños (Clan Úsuga), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), First Capital Command (PCC), Red Command (Comando Vermelho), and Surinamese Wierdjanandsing Gopal.

All 25 groups were put and coded into an excel spreadsheet database with relationship codes of   -1, 0, and 1. A -1 coding signifies a deep ideology difference that would lead to conflict between groups, or that conflict already exists between two groups. A 0 coding signifies a tenuous relationship that falls neither under conflict or a positive business relationship. Meaning the relationship is always fluctuating and changing, and is incapable of being coded a -1 or a 1. While a 1 coding signifies that the groups have a positive business relationship that can be mutual or one sided. A 1 coding can also signify one group or both groups pledging an allegiance to each other. Each coding is backed by a comment in each cell of the excel spreadsheet with a source link.

With the completion of the dataset in excel, i2 Analyst Notebook then made a visual depiction of all the linkages (relationships coded) connecting the nodes (groups) of TOs and OCGs. In “Figure 1” the 1 coded relationships are green in color; the -1 coded relationships are red in color; and the 0 coded relationships are blue in color. Upon completion of the i2 formatting of the social network the betweenness and Eigenvector centralities are then computed in i2 to identify major groups that influence control and authority in the network.

Figure 1:AATUnadjusted.PNG

Discussion of Results:

The results made in i2 Analyst notebook for Eigenvector and betweenness centrality measures are in Figure 2 titled “Results for Eigenvector and betweenness for final Unadjusted SNA (Annex 1).” The leading groups for both TOs and OCGs respectively are Hezbollah and the ‘Ndrangheta for the unadjusted measurement scores. For betweenness Hezbollah leads by 1.719% over the ‘Ndrangheta. While for Eigenvector in Authority (in) % both groups are about equal with 36.586% for Hezbollah and 36.474% for the ‘Ndrangheta. It is in the Hub (out) % that Hezbollah takes the lead at 35.477% with the ‘Ndrangheta at 27.739%. These results apply to the unadjusted network incorporating all links of positive, negative, and tenuous linkages. Therefore, it does not portray a proper depiction of data, since negative linkages do not help a group but show expending resources.


Meanwhile for an adjusted data representation including only the positive links and tenuous links, as can be seen in Figure 3, once again you have the ‘Ndrangheta and Hezbollah in the top. This time though the ‘Ndrangheta overtook Hezbollah by a 6.311% with a score of 21.745% as the ‘Ndrangheta’s final score for betweenness. On the side of Eigenvector the ‘Ndrangheta leads with 49.491% in Authority (in) % and a 30.694% in its Hub (out) % score. Hezbollah came in second with an Authority (in) % score of 36.425%, and a Hub (out) % score of 35.946%. The high betweenness score makes the ‘Ndrangheta the most controlling node for information flow.[1] While the Eigenvector score of Authority (in) % makes the organization strong in receiving from other good hubs. While the lower Hub (out) % score means it is not as strong as Hezbollah in obtaining good authority hubs.[2] [3] Therefore making the ‘Ndrangheta the strongest OCG in the entire network. While placing Hezbollah in second, due to its strong Hub (out) % score.

Figure 2:


Figure 3:


Discussion: Sources Behind the ‘Ndrangheta’s Success

It is likely that the ‘Ndrangheta is the strongest node in influencing and controlling the social network. This is due to its primary positioning as the largest OCG in Europe, but also its willingness to make alliances and terminate them based off business profit margins.[4] [5] The ‘Ndrangheta operates very secretively with strong relations to Cosa Nostra, which works the financial end with money laundering to avoid the stigma of trafficking in narcotics.[6] This relationship allows the ‘Ndrangheta to maintain its shipments of product and payment by having Cosa Nostra take responsibility for shipments and payments, if the ‘Ndrangheta is incapable.[7]

The secretive nature of the ‘Ndragheta makes the organization difficult to infiltrate from a law enforcement perspective, due to close familial ties, and that many European countries have limited laws against mafia organizations.[8] [9] After the Berlin Wall fell, the ‘Ndrangheta took advantage of low costs of Soviet Bloc assets to expand its European presence. Also during this time the ‘Ndrangheta made ties with the Solntsevskaya Bratva (Russian Brotherhood) in Europe. Together they traffic arms and narcotics throughout Europe.[10] Both groups also have ties to Afghanistan’s heroine production, and ‘Ndrangheta’s ties to it are through the Balkan States.[11] [12] Together the ‘Ndragheta and the Solntsevskaya Bratva control the supply and demand of cocaine and heroine in Europe. Currently the ‘Ndrangheta operates on five continents.[13]

The ‘Ndrangheta controls cocaine distribution in Europe’s market through linkages to producers like Los Zetas, Gulf Cartel, Colombian groups (Los Urabeños), Brazil’s PCC, and Surinamese Wierdjanandsing Gopal.[14] [15] Using the Mexican Cartels as the middleman led the ‘Ndrangheta to lose control in negotiating products and prices. The focus for ‘Ndrangheta is to cut out the middleman, like the Mexican cartels, and get the product directly from groups like the Colombians. Thus allowing ‘Ndrangheta to maintain control of the narcotics trade into Europe while buffering profit margins. They will maintain the connection with the Mexican Cartels, until they can reconnect with Colombian groups to increase their own profit margins.[16] [17] For figures on control, in 2004 the ‘Ndrangheta controlled approximately 80% of the European narcotics distribution. In 2014, the ‘Ndrangheta handled 80% of all cocaine sent to Italy, which is likely distributed throughout Europe.[18] [19]

Another linkage the ‘Ndrangheta turned to circumvent the Mexican Cartels is transitioning toward Bolivian drug gangs and the First Capital Command (PCC) in Brazil. The PCC and Red Command control the major narcotics lines into and throughout Brazil, which has also developed into connections with Europe’s OCGs and cocaine market.[20] [21] [22] Red Command shows limited interest to the ‘Ndranghta when compared to the PCC. The PCC has already shown interaction with the ‘Ndrangheta in cocaine distribution in São Paulo, where Brazil’s federal authorities confiscated 3 tons of cocaine in 2014.[23] In addition, the Mexican Cartels tend to focus their production toward the United States, leaving Europe open for producers of cocaine.[24] The ‘Ndrangheta shows interest and ability to provide services of distribution in Europe, if a supplier is willing to agree on the right price.[25]

The second major node to target after the ‘Ndrangheta would be the TO of Hezbollah. Hezbollah operates in South America’s Tri Border Area of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. The reasons behind Hezbollah’s placement in the network’s high scoring nodes is due to PCC prisoner protection agreements; arms trafficking in the region; money laundering with Los Zetas; and narcotics trafficking with Colombian, Brazilian, and Mexican OCGs.[26] [27] [28] [29] [30] While in regards to other TOs in the Middle East, Hezbollah shares tenuous connections with Al Qaeda and Hamas. This is due to Sunni and Shia differences; a focus of maintaining power bases and territory in the region; and lastly to not appear weak in fighting against American and Israeli interests.[31] [32]

In conclusion, Social Network Analysis can aid in quantitative, qualitative, and visual analysis. It is a good methodology to use if time allows, and can provide interesting relationships that otherwise would not be seen between nodes (groups). As seen above the design of the methodology is for complex problems, and through its methods it can be replicated, verified, and updated to make more exact and robust results.

Intelligence Gaps (i.e. Limitations)

Throughout this project, multiple intelligence gaps limited the knowledge base for this SNA project. Primarily much of data and source material came from open news, retired human intelligence, and several reports on given groups. In addition, the geographical selection of Europe and South America only concerns those two regions, even though the groups have connections with North America, Africa, and Eastern and Southeast Asia. This shows a micro-level study of a larger macro-level problem. Another issue that is an intelligence gap is like intelligence, OCGs (more so) and TOs (less so) are very private in their operating environment. This makes the subject matter hard to obtain information on and difficult to study.

Analytic Confidence:

Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. The analyst used Social Network Analysis (SNA) with “betweenness” and “Eigenvector” centrality measures to develop the final product. The analyst’s expertise is medium on the subject matter of SNA, and sources did corroborate with each other when connecting linkages to groups, particularly larger more common groups. The analyst worked alone on the entire project, and the time available was sufficient for the depth of the study. Issues though as explained in the “Intelligence Gaps” section show the limits of open source material and the complexity of the subject matter.


For questions or comments, please contact the author:

Roland Blatnik.

Source Material












[12] Jim Sutton























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