Italy’s largest mafia trial in over 30 years is set to begin today, as prosecutors hope to strike a blow to the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, whose tentacles reach worldwide, AFP reports.
According to reports on France 24, more than 350 alleged members of the mafia and the politicians, lawyers, businessmen and others accused of enabling them face a judge in a huge, specially converted courtroom in the southern Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme, in the heart of ‘Ndrangheta territory.
AFP quotes anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri saying that the trial “is a cornerstone in the building of a wall against the mafias in Italy”.
In Italy, so-called “maxi-trials,” which include scores of defendants and countless charges, are seen as the best judicial resource against the country’s various organised crime groups, of which the ‘Ndrangheta is now considered the most powerful, controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe.
The most famous “maxi-trial” of 1986-7 dealt a major blow to Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, resulting in 338 guilty verdicts, but prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were later assassinated by the mob.
The current trial, expected to last at least a year and likely longer, features 355 defendants, more than 900 prosecution witnesses, and an unprecedented number of collaborators, given the close family ties within the ‘Ndrangheta that discourage turncoats. Prosecutors are seeking to prove a web of crimes dating back to the 1990s, both bloody and white-collar, including murder, drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and abuse of office.