Hundreds face sentencing in historic Italian Mafia trial

Hundreds of alleged mobsters were being sentenced on Monday by an Italian court. It was the culmination of a historic, nearly three-year trial against Calabria’s notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

Prosecutors have asked for guilty verdicts against 322 accused mafia members and their white-collar collaborators. It marked the most significant blow against one of the world’s most powerful organised crime syndicates.

The ‘Ndrangheta has moved beyond its roots in the poor southern Italian region of Calabria to exercise near-monopoly on the European cocaine trade. It has a presence in more than 40 countries worldwide.

The sentencing will cap Italy’s largest mafia trial in decades. It is a “maxi-trial” in which vast numbers of defendants accused of being part of the same mafia criminal conspiracy face justice.

The court of Vibo Valentia, in Calabria, has heard thousands of hours of testimony since the trial began in January 2021. These include more than 50 former mafia operatives turned state witnesses.

They and others have detailed countless examples of the ‘Ndrangheta’s brutality and its stranglehold over the local population.

They include carrying out violent ambushes, shaking down business owners, rigging public tenders, stockpiling weapons, collecting votes or passing kickbacks to the powerful.

The accused are members or affiliates of the top ‘Ndrangheta “clan” in Vibo Valentia — one of the region’s many economically depressed rural areas where the mafia has suffocated the local economy, infiltrated public institutions and terrorised its people for decades.

The undisputed boss of the territory, Luigi “The Supreme” Mancuso, 69, was cut from the defendants’ list last year to be tried separately.

The heavily secured courtroom bunker in the city of Lamezia Terme where the trial has taken place has space for hundreds of lawyers. It is outfitted with more than 20 television screens to connect it with incarcerated defendants by video link.

The ‘Ndrangheta of Vibo Valentia — whose members have nicknames straight out of Hollywood like “The Wolf”, “Fatty”, “Sweetie” and “Lamb Thigh” — were entrenched in the local economy, feared by business owners and farmers, and protected by white-collar professionals and politicians.

Informants — a relatively rare phenomenon within the ‘Ndrangheta due to blood ties between members — recounted how weapons were hidden in cemetery chapels and ambulances used to transport drugs, and municipal water supplies diverted to marijuana crops.

Those who opposed the mafia found dead puppies, dolphins or goat heads dumped on their doorsteps, sledgehammers taken to storefronts or cars torched.

Less lucky were those beaten or fired at — or those whose bodies were never found.

Culled from Vanguard