Hundreds of suspected mobsters and associates, including former politicians, are slated to be brought before a court as Italy’s biggest mafia trial in three decades begins on Wednesday.
More than 350 people are charged with a wide array of crimes, including murder, theft, extortion, drug trafficking, and money laundering. All of the defendants are suspected of having ties to the power ‘Ndrangheta crime clan, which is based in the southern region of Calabria.
Among the defendants are boss Luigi Mancuso, known as ‘Uncle’, who has spent nearly 20 years in prison, and Giancarlo Pittelli, a lawyer-turned-MP who served in both houses of Italy’s parliament in the 2000s. Pittelli, along with the bulk of the defendants, was arrested in December 2019 as part of a series of coordinated raids in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria.
With so many defendants on video link from their jails, Italy’s biggest mafia trial in 30 yrs is looking like the world’s biggest mob Zoom pic.twitter.com/cLgCUmzMJ1
— Tom Kington (@tomkington) January 13, 2021
Another 92 suspects in the same case have opted for a fast-track trial, which will begin later in January.
A call center in the town of Lamezia Terme has been converted into a heavily guarded 1,000-person courtroom to make space for hundreds of lawyers, witnesses, and reporters. Many defendants will participate via video link from prison due to Covid-19 restrictions, while those who show up in person will be seated at least two meters apart from each other.
Chief prosecutor in the case, Nicola Gratteri, said the trial would take at least a year. The state plans to call more than 900 witnesses and bring 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations to support the charges. Those slated to testify include former members of Apulian crime syndicates and the Sicilian Cosa Nostra clan.
“This process serves to understand the evolution of a mafia that shoots less and less and has more contact with public administration officials. It finds ways to easily penetrate certain social environments that were unimaginable 10 years ago,” Gratteri told reporters before the court proceedings.
Gratteri said stronger anti-mafia laws are needed in Central and Northern Europe, noting how the ‘Ndrangheta has been operating in Germany and even participated in bloody turf wars there.
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