14 Jan 2021
Italy’s largest mafia trial in three decades will begin on Wednesday, with 900 witnesses testifying against more than 350 people, including politicians and officials charged with being members of the powerful ’Ndrangheta.
A high-security 1,000-capacity courtroom with cages to hold the defendants has been built by Italian authorities in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme.
Because of coronavirus-related restrictions, however, many of the defendants will attend via videolink from prison during the first hearings. Those in court will wear masks and will be spread across cages, sitting at least 2 metres away from each other.
Almost all of the defendants were arrested in December 2019 after a lengthy investigation that began in 2016 and covered at least 11 Italian regions. About 2,500 officers participated in raids focused on suspects in Vibo Valentia, Calabria, the heart of an area controlled mainly by the ’Ndrangheta’s Mancuso clan.
An elite Carabinieri unit known as the Cacciatori, literally “the hunters”, arrested several suspects hiding in self-constructed bunkers located behind sliding staircases, hidden trapdoors and manholes.
A former senator, a police chief, local councillors and businessmen accused of aiding the mafia, were also arrested in Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria.
Nicola Gratteri, an anti-mafia prosecutor who led the investigation, told the Guardian at the time of the raids that it was the biggest operation against the crime syndicates since the 1986-92 Palermo maxi trials, when Sicilian prosecutors put 475 people in the dock.
For the forthcoming trial, Gratteri’s team has collected 24,000 wiretaps and intercepted conversations to back up their charges.
Antonio Nicaso, ’Ndrangheta expert and member of the advisory board of the Nathanson Centre on Crime and Security at York University in Toronto, stressed the importance of the upcoming trial. “Expectations are high, and it’s obvious that the Italian authorities hope it will be a milestone in the struggle against the ’Ndrangheta,” he said.
“What is certain is that this trial will be one for the history books on organised crime … With these proceedings, Italy will finally have the opportunity to reveal to the world the secrets of the ’Ndrangheta, which over the years has grown silently and in the shadows.”
By Lorenzo Tondo, The Guardian, 13 January 2021
Read more at The Guardian
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