ROME – Italy began on Wednesday a trial against more than 350 people accused of working with the ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s most powerful mafia, in what is Italy’s biggest organized crime trial in more than three decades.
The trial is taking place in a bunker built in an industrial estate in the Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme for security reasons.
The large, high-security courtroom has cages to house the many defendants – which includes politicians – and seat their respective defenses plus the more than 900 witnesses set to testify.
This is the largest Italian mafia trial since the historic Palermo maxi trials against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in 1986, which revealed its structure for the first time and put more than 475 criminals on the stand.
Italian authorities have chosen to hold the trial against the ‘Ndrangheta in the region from which it operates, Calabria, to send out a message of strength and a strong state presence against organized crime.
The ‘Ndrangheta is currently the most powerful mafia in Italy and one of the most prosperous on the planet, with an estimated annual turnover of €50 billion.
With the rural mountains of Calabria and the town of San Luca as a stronghold, it was long underestimated as a minor criminal organization limited only to that territory.
However, over time it grew and spread around the world thanks to their gambling businesses, ties to corruption and drug trades with Latin America.
The first hearing began Wednesday morning, but the judge banned media from recording, a decision criticized by the International Federation of Journalists.
The defendants, alleged mafia members and collaborators such as politicians, military personnel and businesspeople, were arrested in 2019 as part of the Rinascita-Scott operation, led and completed by the public prosecutor of Catanzaro, Nicola Gratteri, in Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Switzerland.
They will face charges such as membership of a mafia association, murder, attempted murder, extortion, illegal possession of weapons and explosives, corruption, abuse of power and drug trafficking, among others.
At the center of the investigations is the Mancuso clan, considered the investigators to be one of the most powerful and influential ‘Ndrangheta families.
Its patriarch, Luigi Mancuso, will be tried again for running the clan’s business, he was released in 2012 after spending 20 years behind bars.
The major trial against the ‘Ndrangheta could take one or two years to process.
Among the accused are Giancarlo Pittelli, lawyer and ex-parliamentarian for Silvio Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia; Mario Lo Riggio, a businessman, and Salvatore Rizzo, the former mayor of Nicotera.