Italy Begins Biggest Mafia Trial in Decades

ROME—Italy’s largest mafia trial in many years started Wednesday, because the nation’s authorities attempt to rein in one of many world’s richest and strongest crime syndicates, the ‘Ndrangheta.

The 325 defendants face charges including murder, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes in connection with the shadowy ‘Ndrangheta, whose wealth and international reach have eclipsed that of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in latest many years.

The trial, which started with formalities on Wednesday, is going down in a bunkerlike courtroom in the city of Lamezia Terme in Calabria, the ‘Ndrangheta’s residence area in Italy’s deep South. Prosecutors hope it can mark a turning level in the battle in opposition to the ‘Ndrangheta by concentrating on the management of certainly one of its most distinguished clans and exposing how the group has infiltrated native politics and enterprise.

The ‘Ndrangheta has steadily risen to become one of the world’s strongest drug-trafficking syndicates, controlling over 80% of Europe’s cocaine commerce. Its tentacles prolong to the Americas, Africa and Australia.

The group’s estimated annual income of $55 billion, in line with prosecutors, is larger than estimates for the drug cartels of Mexico and Colombia mixed. It is believed to have some 20,000 members. Yet it stays a lot much less well-known than the Cosa Nostra. Prosecutors hope the trial will reveal particulars of its inner construction and workings.

The trial’s primary goal is the Mancuso clan, a strong power in Calabria identified for its longstanding partnership with Colombian cartels. The prosecution’s star witness is a Mancuso clan member, a nephew of the household’s patriarch, who turned informant. The accused embrace clan members, native enterprise individuals, public officers and a former lawmaker.

Mr. Gratteri, who travels in an armored automobile, is all the time underneath police escort and avoids public locations.


Valeria Ferraro/LaPresse/Zuma Press

“This trial reveals how embedded the ‘Ndrangheta is on the ground,” said Antonio Nicosa, an ‘Ndrangheta expert and professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “It could have a very big impact on the ‘Ndrangheta because it shows that the state is here and willing to fight.”

Italy hasn’t seen such a giant antimafia trial for the reason that Nineteen Eighties, when a spectacular mass trial in Palermo of Cosa Nostra’s management tremendously weakened the group. But the Sicilian mafia’s relative decline additionally helped to clear the best way for the ‘Ndrangheta’s rise.

The prosecutors who led the Sicilian investigation, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, paid a excessive worth: Both had been assassinated by the mafia.

A giant impediment in the battle in opposition to mafia teams has lengthy been witnesses’ concern of talking up. Prosecutors hope a high-profile trial that results in the conviction of distinguished ‘Ndrangheta figures may assist to interrupt the silence and support additional investigations.

“People need to know they can trust us, that we can provide answers,” Nicola Gratteri, the lead prosecutor in the case, informed reporters forward of Wednesday’s listening to.

Most of the defendants have been in pretrial detention since December 2019, when 1000’s of law-enforcement officers took half in certainly one of Italy’s biggest-ever raids in opposition to the mafia.

The arrests had been the fruits of a virtually four-year investigation led by Mr. Gratteri, a local of Calabria who has spent years combating the ‘Ndrangheta—and has in turn become a target.

Police have uncovered a number of plots to kill him. He travels in an armored automobile, is all the time underneath police escort and avoids public locations. He’s by no means even been for a stroll in downtown Catanzaro, the regional capital of Calabria, the place he has been chief prosecutor since 2016.

“In my mind, this is war,” Mr. Gratteri informed The Wall Street Journal in the course of the investigation. “I want to clean things up to allow room for civil society to create something new.”

Write to Margherita Stancati at [email protected]

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