Rocco mafia
Domenico Scopelliti, 51, is charged with the first-degree murder of Mafia boss Rocco Zito, 87.Toronto Police handout

A former Mafia boss affiliated with the infamous 'Ndrangheta, based in southern Italy, has been shot dead at his home in the Canadian city of Toronto. A senior citizen, Rocco Zito, 87, was believed to have been a key member of the notorious 'Ndrangheta, or Calabrian mafia in Toronto.

Once one of the City's most powerful underworld figures he is alleged to have been shot dead by his son-in-law Domenico Scopelliti, who has now been charged with murder after turning himself in to police. Officers arrived at Zito's bungalow on Friday 29 January just after 5pm to find an elderly man who had been shot dead, attempts were made to resuscitate the Italian immigrant but he died at the scene.

Scopelliti, 51, was initially named as a suspect and he surrendered to authorities on Saturday 30 January just hours after the alleged killing. He later made a court appearance at Old City Hall Court, wearing an orange jumpsuit, where he was charged with first-degree murder.

According to reports, Zito was born in Fiumara, a small town in Calabria, Italy, in 1928 and he moved to Canada in the mid-1950s keeping ties with Italy and branches of the Mafia clan in New York and Montreal. The 'Ndrangheta are considered to be the largest drug trafficking business in Europe operating out of their spiritual home on the Mediterranean - just a few miles from Sicily.

The gang are said to have ties with prostitution gangs and are renowned for using large underground bunkers as shelter. The crime syndicate is also infamous for its masonic-esque initiation ceremonies and an encrypted messaging system.

According to neighbours of Zito he had lived there for at least 30 years with Scopelliti, his wife and their kids also living in the home. The senior citizen was once implicated in murders in Canada and in his homeland.

Police officers at the hearing did not reveal any further details about the murder or possible motive for Zito's killing, according to the Toronto Sun. And Scopelliti was ordered to remain in custody until his next court date on 12 February.

Who are the 'Ndrangheta?

The 'Ndrangheta has fast become Italy's most powerful and feared Mafia group, with part of its criminal success is owed to its secretive nature.

As each 'Ndrangheta clan are founded on strict blood ties, members rarely turn informers, making detectives' work harder.

This system has enabled 'Ndrangheta to become the first Italian mafia to have consolidated footholds in Italy's industrial north.

'Ndrangheta is widely regarded as the group that has filled the void left by La Cosa Nostra on the international drug trafficking stage, gaining the crown of Europe's biggest drug cartel.

A series of recent investigations has showed how its clans have become the favourite business partners for US mafia families, previously tied to the Sicilian mob.

Besides drug trafficking, 'Ndrangheta gangs are involved in pretty much any profitable illicit activity, but prostitution, according to Ciconte.