Groundbreaking Italian Mafia Mega-Trial

by Madison Li ’22

Source: The New York Times

Published Dec. 22nd, 2021

On Sunday, November 7, 70 members and accomplices of the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful mafia, were convicted from a trial of the past weekend.

These first 70 convictions are part of a mega-trial against the notorious ‘Ndrangheta syndicate, which began earlier this year, in January. This is the largest prosecution against organized crime since the 1980s, and is projected to last over two years with another 355 defendants who remain to be tried in court. The trials take place in a modified courtroom in Lamezia Terme, a city in Calabria, the southern region of Italy where the ‘Ndrangheta are based.

The defendants face an assortment of charges, especially drug trafficking, since the ‘Ndrangheta allegedly control most of the cocaine smuggled into Europe. Other crimes include theft, murder, extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, and abuse of office. The most conspicuous defendants include clan boss Luigi Mancuso and his high-level accomplices though there are many corrupt public officials, politicians, prominent businessmen, and lawyers also on trial for associating with mafia operations.

The defendants chose to undergo an expedited, private trial, allowing their punishment times to be reduced by a third. Still, several leaders in the clan received sentences of 20 years in prison, the maximum length, and a third of the convicted were sentenced to over 10 years. Of the 91 total defendants in the November 7 trial, 19 were acquitted, with most of them being only marginal suspects.

The renowned anti-mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, who led the 2019 investigations and arrests of hundreds of mafia-linked suspects in various European countries commented on the verdict, saying, “This is a cornerstone in the wall that we are building to counter the ‘Ndrangheta, and to make more livable a region that has been martyrized for over a century.”

Gratteri is determined to overcome the ‘Ndrangheta. Although his endeavors targeting the violent mafia place him in considerable danger, he insists, “I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I always say what I think, and if I can’t tell the truth, it’s because I can’t prove it. There are no problems.” Gratteri has lived under police protection for the past three decades.

Gratteri is confident that there will be more convictions in upcoming trials, insisting that “The work is long,” but “we [must] keep being serious, constant and systematic… We continue our work with serenity and the firmness needed for such an important trial.”

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