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An Italian court has convicted more than 230 people – including a former lawmaker from late Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party – for involvement in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, as the country’s biggest organized crime trial in decades comes to a close END.
The so-called mafia maxi-trial, held in a special high-security courtroom in the southern region of Calabria, brought more than 330 people to court on charges of participating in or assisting the mafia, including drug trafficking. drugs, extortion, corruption and theft. Around a hundred defendants were acquitted.
The proceedings focused on the so-called Mancuso family, a Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta clan that has long eclipsed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as Italy’s most notorious and powerful organized crime group.
The ‘Ndrangheta, whose network, according to Italian investigators, extends from West Africa to South America, controls most of the illegal cocaine trade in Europe and its global turnover is estimated at 50 billion euros ($54.7 billion). Trafficking takes place in particular from the port of Gioia Tauro, in southern Italy, which authorities have described as the “nerve center” of the group’s drug trafficking.
The court on Monday sentenced two local leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta clan, Saverio Razionale and Domenico Bonavota, to 30 years in prison, the heaviest sentence. Other mob bosses – with nicknames such as “The Wolf,” “Fat” and “The Musician” – were sentenced to 17 to 28 years in prison.
Giancarlo Pittelli — lawyer and former MP for Forza Italia, the party founded by Berlusconi and part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s ruling right-wing coalition — was sentenced to 11 years in prison for collusion and passing information to the mafia.
A police lieutenant and a member of Italy’s powerful financial police were also found guilty of wrongdoing, although they received more lenient sentences than those requested by prosecutors.
Convicts can still appeal the verdict and sentence to higher courts.
The Mancuso family is based in the southern province of Vibo Valentia, near the tip of the Italian continent and central to the heart of the ‘Ndrangheta. Most of those convicted on Monday had been arrested as part of a crackdown in December 2019, after nearly three years of investigation in various regions of Italy.
Prosecutors expressed satisfaction with the results, even though acquittals and many sentences were shorter than they had requested.
“The omnipresence of the criminal organization in the province of Vibo Valentia was so entrenched, so alarming, so worrying that it did not touch any aspect of life, economy and society. . . it was not affected by the intimidation force of this (mafia),” said Vincenzo Capomolla, director of the prosecution in charge of the case.
Despite its unprecedented size, the maxi-trial will likely make only a small dent in the organization as a whole, which has continued to operate. In May, authorities in several European and Latin American countries arrested 150 people and seized 23 tons of cocaine, following years of investigation into the ‘Ndrangheta’s international operations.
In its latest report, published in September, Italy’s anti-mafia leadership described the ‘Ndrangheta as “a veritable criminal holding company of very significant international importance.”
Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome
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