Hundreds of alleged members of Italy’s most powerful Ndrangheta mafia group are set to face justice in the country’s biggest organised crime trial since the 1990s. BBC news agency reports.
The 355 suspects, including members of organized crime group, corrupt officials, businessmen and lawyers, were charged with murder, drug and weapon trafficking, extortion, money laundering and corruption. During a pre-trial hearing it took more than three hours to read the names of the defendants.
More than 900 witnesses are expected to give evidence, including 58 ex-mafiosi.
The trial began on January 13 and is expected to last at least a year. It is taking place in a specially modified building in the southern region of Calabria, which is at the heart of ‘Ndrangheta territory.
The building, formerly a call centre in the town of Lamezia Terme, has been converted into a fortified courtroom to make space for the hundreds of people likely to attend the proceedings.
– This process serves to understand the evolution of a mafia that shoots less and less and has more contact with public administration officials, – prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said.
The last time the mafia trial took place in Italy on such a scale from 1986 to 1992 and targeted a large number of organised crime families in Sicily
The current trial is targeting at just one criminal group, the Mancuso family, which forms a powerful section of the sprawling ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
The most famous defendant is the 66-year-old alleged clan boss Luigi Mancuso, also known as «The Uncle».
In addition to 355 suspects, another 92 defendants in the same case have already opted for a fast-track trial. These include Giancarlo Pittelli, lawyer and former senator for ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
The list of suspects also includes a high-ranking police official and several mayors.
Most of the defendants were arrested in December 2019 during police raids in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria, which began in 2016.
The Ndrangheta is currently the most powerful organized criminal group in the country, and the Mancuso clan operates mainly in the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia.
According to the Italian authorities, the annual income of the Ndrangheta criminal community is more than € 50 billion. Moreover, in many parts of Calabria, it has infiltrated practically all areas of public life, from city hall and hospitals, to cemeteries and courts.