Monday, 25 January, 2021

Testimony Begins Wednesday in Italy’s Largest Organized Crime Trial in Three Decades

39;ndrangheta trial Italy targets violent clan in biggest Mafia trial in decades
Deanna Wagner | 14 January, 2021, 19:30

The 'Ndrangheta outfit is based in Calabria, the country's southern tip, and is described by prosecutors as the most powerful mafia group in Italy.

Prosecutors are hoping the trial will be a decisive blow for the 'ndrangheta, the Calabrian-based mob organization that has exploited tens of billions of dollars in cocaine revenues to extend its criminal reach across Europe and into several continents.

Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said the case requires a "maxi-trial", citing the power structure in the organization of power-wielding families.

"Decades ago, people would tremble when talking about Cosa Nostra or when using the word 'ndrangheta, something they would say only in a hidden room, around the fireplace, whispering", said Gratteri, who was born in Calabria and who has recalled how he played and attended school with boys who later grew up to become 'ndranghetisti, as the syndicate's ranks are known. "Today we are beginning to speak out in the open sunlight".

"The road ahead is still very long, but we mustn't give up because there are thousands of people who believe in us". It is active as well in Africa.

The trial grew out of an investigation of 12 clans linked to a convicted 'ndrangheta boss.

The current trial focuses on one family, the Mancuso group, and its network of associates who control the Vibo Valentia area of Calabria. It features 355 defendants, 913 prosecution witnesses, and an unprecedented number of collaborators, given the close family ties within the "Ndrangheta that discourage helping the authorities".

Judge Roberto Di Bella, who has nearly 30 years of experience in the methods of the Calabrian mob, describes the 'Ndrangheta as "perhaps the most powerful criminal organisation in the world, but certainly the most diffuse, and present on five continents".

"I have to start with the idea that there's an organization, as in a business, as in a large multinational, with a boss and then down, like a pyramid, to all the other members", Gratteri said.

The trial begins Wednesday and will likely proceed for more than 2 years.

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Inside the 1,000-capacity courtroom in Calabria, Italy where a mafia "maxi-trial" involving 350 defendants has begun.

The Lamezia Terme bunker is so vast that a score of video screens has been anchored to the ceiling so participants view the proceedings. There are rows of tables for some 600 lawyers to work, with microphones and chairs safely distanced to respect coronavirus health rules.

A major mafia trial against 325 suspected mobsters and corrupt officials kicked off in the southern Italian city of Lamezia Terme on Wednesday.

In the dock are more than 350 alleged members of the mafia plus politicians, lawyers, businessmen and others accused of enabling them.

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"Ndrangheta was nearly impenetrable at the start due to its adherence to blood ties".

A special 1,000-capacity courtroom with cages for the defendants has been constructed, but novel coronavirus restrictions mean numerous preliminary hearings will be conducted via videolink, and those who do attend in person will have to obey social distancing rules.

Since the early 2000s, the 'Ndrangheta is believed to have become the most powerful and the richest of Italy's three crime syndicates - the others being Cosa Nostra in Sicily and Camorra in the Campania region around Naples.

Awash in cocaine trafficking revenues, the 'ndrangheta has gobbled up hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, auto dealerships and other businesses throughout Italy, especially in Rome and the affluent north, criminal investigations have revealed.