More than 200 defendants were sentenced to a total of more than 2,200 years in prison in Italy, in one of the largest mafia-related trials in decades in that European country.
In the trial, which lasted three years, people allegedly linked to the ‘Ndrangheta for crimes ranging from extortion to drug trafficking.
Among those convicted is a former Italian senatoralthough the verdicts can still be appealed.
The ‘Ndrangheta is one of the most influential criminal organizations in Europe.
The case illustrated the mafia’s widespread influence over southern Italian politics and society.
Experts said that the sentences white collar criminalsincluding local officials, businessmen and politicians, showed the impact of great scope of organized crime in Italian institutions.
Among the most notable convicts is Giancarlo Pittellilawyer and former senator from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
Pittelli received an 11-year sentence for collusion with a mafia-type organization.
Others convicted included civil servants, professionals from various industries and high-ranking officials, who were instrumental in the ‘Ndrangheta’s success in infiltrating the local economy and state institutions.
More than 100 defendants were acquitted.
The judges presiding over the case were placed under police protection for fear of their safety.
‘Ndrangheta, a multimillion-dollar mafia group
Originally from the impoverished region of Calabriathe ‘Ndrangheta is considered one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world.
It is estimated that it controls up to 80% of the cocaine market in Europe.
The group has an estimated annual turnover of around US$60 billion.
The trial was held in a call center on the outskirts of the city of Lamezia Terme, converted into a high-security courtroom equipped with cells to hold the defendants and large enough to accommodate some 600 lawyers and 900 witnesses. .
The charges included murder, extortion, drug trafficking, usury, abuse of power and money laundering.
Over three years, the proceedings demonstrated how the Calabrian group extended its reach across continents, operating as far away as South America and Australia.
Its members infiltrated the local economy, public institutions and even the health system, rigging public tenders and bribing local officials.
In the trial, the largest of its kind since the 1980s, judges examined thousands of hours of testimony.
Former gangsters turned collaborators of the judicial system testified about the activities of the Mancuso family and his partners, who exercise extensive control over the province of Vibo Valentia.
The Mancuso family, from the town of Limbadi, is one of the most powerful of the 150 clans that make up the ‘Ndrangheta.
“A condemnation of classic gangsters”
“This trial confirms the convictions of classic gangsters, convicted of crimes traditionally more associated with criminal activitiessuch as extortion or drug trafficking,” said Anna Sergi, a professor of criminology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
“However, it is important to note how the different types of people involved, including those in white collar, provide a more complete view of the entire province and the connections between the different mafia clans,” he added.
Most of the defendants were arrested in December 2019, following an extensive investigation that spanned at least 11 Italian regions and began in 2016.
Approximately 2,500 officers were involved in raids targeting suspects in Vibo Valentia, an area mainly controlled by the Mancuso clan of the ‘Ndragheta.
More than 50 former members of the mafia agreed to cooperate in the process, including Luigi Mancuso’s nephew, Emanuele, whose testimony shed light on the inner workings of the criminal group.
The trial revealed that ‘Ndrangheta members allegedly They hid weapons in cemetery chapelsused ambulances to transport drugs and diverted public water supplies to grow marijuana.
Those who opposed the organized crime group faced dire consequences, including finding dead puppies and goat heads abandoned in front of their homes, burning cars and smashed shop windows.
“This first round of sentences shows how difficult it is to combat the ‘Ndrangheta due to its political, economic and financial connections,” said Antonio Nicaso, writer and expert on organized crime.
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