338 defendants appeared before three judges in the city of Lamezia Terme; the prosecution demanded prison terms for 322 of them. Most were eventually sentenced, but generally for shorter periods than expected. Still, the convictions represent one of the biggest blows yet to the all-powerful gang, which enjoys a near-monopoly on Europe’s cocaine trade.
Among those convicted are also some politicians.
“Operation Rinascita-Scott” is the investigating judge from Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri launched four years ago. Almost all the suspects were arrested in December 2019 after a long investigation that began in 2016 and took place in at least 11 Italian provinces.
Around 2,500 police officers took part in raids targeting suspects in the Calabrian town of Vibo Valentia, the center of an area largely under the control of the ‘Ndrangheta’s Mancuso clan.
An elite unit of carabinieri known as the Cacciatori (Hunters) arrested a series of suspects hiding in bunkers behind escalators, hidden hatches and shafts. In addition, several people were arrested in Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria, including a police chief, local councilors and businessmen accused of helping the mafia.
After the arrests of more than 400 suspected mobsters and their associated businessmen and politicians, the trial began in January 2021 with 338 defendants and more than 700 lawyers.
The Calabrian ‘ndrangheta has spread throughout Italy and the world in recent decades. The resignation of the Slovak Prime Minister was also connected with it Robert Fitz in 2018; as shown by the investigations of the previously murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak, some of his colleagues worked with her.
Little attention from the Italian media
The defendants in this trial are mostly members of family clans – called ‘ndrine – from the Viba Valentia area. They were accused of trafficking in drugs and weapons, extortion, usury, money laundering, abuse of position and other acts. Most were eventually convicted.
The all-female court sentenced them to more than 2,000 years in prison, or half as much as the prosecution demanded. Among them is a former parliamentarian from the party Naprej, Italy Giancarlo Pittelliwho was sentenced to 11 years.
In the courtroom, which was set up for this purpose in the bunker of the city of Lamezia Terme, they highlighted the weak presence of the general public. Even the national media pay little attention to the process, despite its historicity, reports RTV’s correspondent from Italy Janko Petrovec.
Gratteri told the Guardian it was the biggest anti-mafia operation since the Palermo trials between 1986 and 1992, when Sicilian prosecutors jailed 475 people.
In the meantime, another trial related to the first is taking place before the court in Catanzaro, where only those accused of five mafia murders and a kidnapping are being tried. Prosecutors there are seeking five life sentences, three sentences of 30 and one of 14 years in prison.