Italy’s latest maxi-trial sees 350 people linked to organised crime gang ‘Ndrangheta going before the court. The biggest names are yet to stand before the magistrates.
In Lamezia Terme, Calabria, a new bunker room houses the magistrates’ bench for the ‘Ndrangheta ‘maxi-trial’. The judges sit under a sign reading ‘the law is equal for all’.
On Saturday, 70 defendants were found guilty in the biggest mafia trial for over 30 years. Judge Claudio Paris read out verdicts and sentences against 91 defendants in the massive courtroom in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme.
Trial will last at least two years
A total of 355 people are on trial. The proceedings could last two years or longer. However, the 91 who went before the bench on Saturday had opted for a speedy trial. By choosing this option, the defendants could have their sentence cut by a third.
The trial for hundreds of suspects affiliated with the ‘Ndrangheta is taking place behind closed doors. The ´Ndraghenta are Italy’s most powerful mafia group.
Anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said the sentencing had gone “very well”. Gratteri has been living with a police escort for more than 30 years due to his efforts to defeat the notorious mafia group.
“Out of 91 defendants, there were 70 presumed innocent who were convicted,” Gratteri told Italian news agency Adnkronos. He added that those acquitted had been minor players.
Maximum sentence sought by prosecutors
Some of the group’s most dangerous members received the maximum 20-year sentence requested by prosecutors. They included Domenico Macri of the group’s military wing; Pasquale Gallone, the right-hand man of alleged mob boss Luigi Mancuso, whose trial is still pending; and Gregorio Niglia, whose role included procuring weapons and extortion.
About a third of the group received sentences of a decade or more. Meanwhile 21 individuals received acquittals, seven at the request of prosecutors, Gratteri said.
The key players that prosecutors hope to convict are Mancuso “The Uncle”, 67, considered the leader of the ’Ndrangheta families. He dominated the Vibo Valentia province of Calabria. Alongside him, opting for the longer trial, is ex-senator and lawyer Giancarlo Pittelli, 68, accused of being Mancuso’s white-collar fixer.
Mancuso spent three years on the run beginning in 2014. Mancuso had only recently been released from prison after serving 19 years.
The ’Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. The group controls the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe.
Within the group there are around 150 families looking to earn a better position with the organisation. In support are 6,000 members or more, with thousands more worldwide.
The ’Ndrangheta managed to infiltrate nearly all segments of public administration in Calabria. This has resulted in lucrative contracts and allowed it to establish itself. With international reach, it reinvests its illegal gains into the legitimate economy.
Charges of attempted murder, extortion and money laundering
Charges faced by the accused include mafia association, attempted murder, money laundering, drug dealing, and illegal weapons possession.
The courtroom was specially designed for the maxi-trial to accommodate the hundreds of lawyers and witnesses.
The legendary maxi-trial of 1986-1987, dealt a blow to Sicily’s Cosa Nostra. There were 338 convictions. However, the mob later assassinated anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.