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Italy court sends 200+ to prison in mafia trial

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-22 10:03
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A general view ahead of a trial against 355 suspected members of the 'Ndrangheta mafia, accused of an array of charges, in a High Security Courthouse in Lamezia Terme, Italy, Jan 13, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

An Italian court has convicted more than 200 defendants and sentenced them to a total of more than 2,200 years in prison at the conclusion of one of the country's largest-ever mafia trials.

The trial that focused on the 'Ndrangheta crime organization, unfolded in a giant bunker-style courtroom in the group's heartland in the southern region of Calabria, and involved more than 330 suspected mobsters and their alleged associates.

Running for almost three years, the trial encompassed an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking, and theft, and associates of the crime family members were charged with acting in complicity with the 'Ndrangheta.

It took judges one hour and 40 minutes to read their final verdict, with the heaviest penalties of 30-year sentences handed to Saverio Razionale and Domenico Bonavota, two local Calabrian mafia leaders, according to Italy's Ansa news agency.

Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy's best-known magistrates and a former lead prosecutor in the case, told Reuters news agency the ruling meant "a whole province of Calabria has been liberated from the top brass of the criminal group".

Convictions were also handed out to white-collar professionals with connections to the group, including entrepreneurs and politicians.

Giancarlo Pittelli, a lawyer and former politician affiliated with the Forza Italia party, part of the national ruling coalition, was among those convicted. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his involvement in mafia collusion and for passing on information. A former local police chief, Giorgio Naselli, received a sentence of two years and six months.

Gratteri, who changed jobs to become chief prosecutor in Naples two months ago, emphasized that establishing the link between the 'Ndrangheta and a network of professionals was a crucial element of the verdict.

However, the prosecution did not secure the heavy sentences it sought in several cases, with approximately 100 defendants acquitted.

The court's first-instance ruling on Monday is open to appeal by both the defense and the prosecution, reported Reuters.

According to the Italian prosecutors cited by Associated Press, the 'Ndrangheta has expanded its influence in Italy and abroad, gaining near-exclusive control over cocaine importation in Europe as the Sicilian mafia's influence has waned, with additional operations in North and South America and activities in Africa.

The organized crime syndicate is described as one of the world's most powerful, extensive and wealthy drug-trafficking groups, with annual profits of $65 billion, reported Sky News.

In December 2019, around 3,000 officers from special forces and elite units targeted the 'Ndrangheta, carrying out raids in 12 Italian regions and making arrests in Germany, Switzerland, and Bulgaria as well as in Italy, resulting in the seizure of millions of euros worth of property and cash and the detention of 300 suspects.

The consequent trial has centered on one of the 'Ndrangheta's prominent families, the Mancusos and their associates. The alleged "Godfather" of the family, Luigi Mancuso, also known as "The Uncle", is set to stand trial separately.

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