Italian police have cracked an encrypted "Mafia code" in an initiation rite recited by prospective members of the organized crime network during oath-taking ceremonies.

Detectives in Rome discovered the document during an investigation into the murder of a member of the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, which is based in the hills of the southern region of Calabria, The Telegraph reported. 

The document, written in a code resembling ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics, refers to a pledge of "blood and honor" required of prospective members and discusses how to conduct an initiation rite, according to the report. 

"Its content is basically the formula that a person must recite to become part of the 'Ndrangheta," Renato Cortese, head of the police rapid response team in Rome, told the BBC. 

The three-page, hand-written document was deciphered by two policemen in Rome with a passion for crosswords who spent weeks working to crack the code.

"Finding such a document shows that even if they are projected towards big businesses and are a criminal group with a global presence, they still use archaic systems," Cortese said.

The 'Ndrangheta has expanded its power in the past few decades and is seen as more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia. The network is active in the illegal international drug trade and has been linked to Colombian drug cartels.

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