900 witnesses and 350 defendants: Italy's largest trial against mafia begins

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900 witnesses and 350 defendants: Italy's largest trial against mafia begins
900 witnesses and 350 defendants: Italy's largest trial against mafia begins
13 January, 14:57In the world
900 witnesses are expected to testify against more than 350 people accused of belonging to the 'Ndrangheta, a powerful Calabrian OCG (organized criminal gang). In the dock, along with the bosses of the mafia, there are also politicians and officials.

In the Italian city of Lamezia Terme on Wednesday begins the largest trial in the last three decades in the mafia case, according to The Guardian.

A high security courtroom was built specifically for the trial in Lamezia Terme. It is equipped with cages for the detention of the defendants and can accommodate 1000 people. The process could have been even more ambitious if not for the pandemic. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, many defendants will participate in the first hearing via video link from the prison. Those who appear in person in court will maintain a social distance of 2 meters in the cages and wear masks.

Court room.
Photo: Gianluca Chininea/AFP/Getty Images

The investigation into the crimes of the Calabrian mafia began in 2016 and covered 11 Italian regions. As a result, almost all of the accused were arrested in December 2019. About 2,500 officers have participated in raids to capture suspects in Vibo Valentia, a province in Calabria. Here was the lair of the ndrageta, which is controlled by the Mancuso clan. Some suspected members of the elite carabinieri unit, kachchiatori (Italian for "hunters"), were arrested in makeshift bunkers. Mafiosi hid behind retractable staircases and secret hatches. In Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria, a former senator, police chief and businessmen were arrested on charges of aiding the mafia.

Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who heads the prosecution, claims that this is the largest operation against crime syndicates since the Palermo trial in 1986-1992, when Sicilian prosecutors put 475 people in the dock. For the upcoming trial, Gratteri's team collected 24,000 hours of wiretapping to help confirm the charges.

Photo: Gianluca Chininea/AFP/Getty Images

The Calabrian Ndrangheta is much less known than the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and Camorra from Campania. But it is Ndrangheta who today is the most powerful criminal group in Italy and one of the richest in the world. Researchers at the Demoskopita Research Institute, who studied the issue in 2013, found that the Ndrangheta has more financial power than Deutsche Bank and McDonald's combined. Its annual turnover is 53 billion euros.

According to experts, the secret to the success of the Calabrian mafiosi lies in their deep roots in Calabria. Ndrangheta bosses are carrying out operations worth millions of euros around the world without leaving remote villages. To stay uncaught, they build underground tunnels under their homes, mountain bunkers that can only be reached on foot, and shelters in the forest. For communication at the highest level, mafiosi still use a pizza - a piece of paper on which they write instructions. At the same time, the front companies launder millions of euros from the drug trade for them. Mafia fees are also levied on local businessmen who are intimidated and required to pay for "protection".

Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri
Photo:Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the patriarchal nature of the Ndrangheta, based on blood ties and practically impervious to outsiders, many of the brothers, nephews and even children of the mafiosi agreed to speak out against their relatives in the upcoming trial. Of particular interest is the testimony of Emanuele Mancuso, who is going to testify against his uncle Luigi Mancuso.

The upcoming trial was codenamed Rinascita - Renaissance. Prosecutors are confident that it will mark the beginning of the rise of Calabria, Italy's poorest region.

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