Why is it called McMafia?

What inspired the title of the new BBC crime drama starring James Norton?

James Norton in McMafia

BBC1’s new crime drama McMafia takes its inspiration from Misha Glenny’s non-fiction book McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, dramatising some of its real-life tales of international organised crime.


But why McMafia? Is James Norton’s lead character Alex Godman involved in a Scottish arm of the Mob? Not quite.

Glenny’s book reveals that the name McMafia was coined in relation to a particularly brutal group of Chechen criminals who extended their network around the world by employing a franchise model that has structural similarities to that of the world’s biggest fast food chain, McDonald’s.

The Chechens saw the size and proliferation of ‘branches’ of their organisation as important to its success but also insisted on the idea of maintaining ‘quality’ and consistency across them, meaning any group sanctioned to use their brand must adhere to certain standards – which, chillingly, includes ensuring their trademark violence doesn’t drop below a certain benchmark.

Ronald McDonald would certainly not approve of that.


This article was originally published in December 2017