One of the largest ever anti-mafia trials started earlier this month in Italy, featuring 325 alleged mobsters and their associates facing charges including murder, money laundering, drug trafficking, theft, and extortion. The trial is targeting the ‘Ndrangheta clan, based in Calabria, considered the most powerful mafia organisation in Italy. The aim of the trial is to target the ‘Ndrangheta leadership and expose how it infiltrated local business and politics. Thus, most of the defendants are associates who helped the ‘Ndrangheta build its crime organisation while working in white-collar jobs including accountants, lawyers, police officers, and politicians.
The prosecution’s main witness is a nephew of the Mancuso family’s patriarch; the Mancuso family is one of the families of the ‘Ndrangheta clan. Furthermore, the prosecution plans on supporting their case by calling 913 witnesses and drawing on over 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations. The trial will be taking place in a bunker-type courtroom to accommodate the defendants while allowing social distancing.
Nicola Gratteri, the chief prosecutor, encouraged people to speak out. “Decades ago, people would tremble when talking about Cosa Nostra or when using the word ‘Ndrangheta, something they would say only in a hidden room, around the fireplace, whispering,” said Gratteri, a local born in Calabria and grew up with boys who grew up to become ‘Ndranghetisti, what members of the clan are known. “Today we are beginning to speak out in the open sunlight.” Gratteri has also said, “The road ahead is still very long, but we mustn’t give up because there are thousands of people who believe in us. We can’t let them down.”
“This trial shows how embedded the ‘Ndrangheta is on the ground,” said Antonio Nicosa, an expert in ‘Ndrangheta and a professor at Queen’s University, Ontario. “It could have a very big impact on the ‘Ndrangheta because it shows that the state is here and willing to fight.”
The trial will be significant because it not only targets those in the ‘Ndrangheta but its associates. This sends a strong message that it is unacceptable to not only condone but actively work with criminal organisations for personal gain. The trial will also allow for people to feel safe in their communities as before it was impossible for them to know who was working with the ‘Ndrangheta as its associates were embedded in the local community.
The last time Italy prosecuted alleged mobsters was in 1986 which became a turning point in the battle against Cosa Nostra leading to its sharp decline. This allowed for the rise of the ‘Ndrangheta as the leadership of Cosa Nostra was weakened. ‘Ndrangheta was formed when a group of Sicilians were exiled to Calabria where they started small criminal groups in the 1860s. Currently, the ‘Ndrangheta consists of 100 families who control their own territory, and over 20,000 members. The ‘Ndrangheta grew to become one of the most powerful drug-trafficking organisations the world’s, controlling more than 80 per cent of Europe’s cocaine trade. It has an estimated annual revenue of $55 billion, with its influence extending to Australia, Africa, and the Americas.
The trial is expected to run for over a year, if not for several years, due to the number of defendants. This conveys not only the breadth but the depth of the mafia problem in Italy. This will only be the beginning of addressing the issue as the vacuum left by punishing the ‘Ndrangheta cannot be allowed to be filled by another criminal organisation.