Politicians and police were among more than 200 people convicted of collaborating with Calabria’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta organisation.
An Italian court sentenced 207 members and associates of the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization to a total of more than 2,200 years in prison on Monday, concluding the first phase of the country’s largest mafia trial in nearly four decades.
The defendants are charged with a laundry list of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, bribery, extortion and criminal association.
The trial focused on the Mancuso family, one of the most powerful families in the ‘Ndrangheta, although family boss Luigi Mancuso will be tried separately after his nephew turned state’s evidence. Alleged clan leaders Saverio Razonale, Paulino Lo Bianco and Domenico Bonavotta received the harshest sentences of 30 years each.
“We have finally established that there is a network of workers, businessmen and politicians who deal with the Calabrian clansProsecutor Nicola Gratteri told The Guardian on Monday, adding that his office was “Very satisfied“With the results.
Among the prominent individuals caught up in the criminal group’s operations is former Forza Italia and Berlusconi’s deputy, Giancarlo Betelli, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for collaborating with the ‘Ndrangheta and having political ties with the Mancuso family. The police chief, mayors, local council members and prominent businessmen were also sentenced.
Millions of euros worth of property and cash were seized during the investigation titled “Operation Rinascita-Scott”, which culminated in the arrest of more than 400 suspects across Italy, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland in 2019.
With money flowing in from controlling 80% of Europe’s cocaine traffic, the organization allegedly bought up several legitimate companies to help launder its illicit money, from hotels and restaurants to car dealerships.
The trial began in January 2021 in Calabria, the ‘Ndrangheta’s regional stronghold, in a bunker-style courtroom built for the occasion in the city of Lamezia Terme.
Prosecutor Vincenzo Capomola praised the ruling that freed the province of Vibo Valentia from the crime gang, which he said “So deep-rooted, so widespread, so worrying and disturbing that I believe it can be said that there was no area of life, in its economic and social fabric, that was not conditioned to be intimidated by such a dangerous organisation.“.
In addition to the 207 people sentenced on Monday, 70 others were sentenced in 2021 after opting for a speedy trial, a measure that eliminates the judicial discussion stage in exchange for a reduced sentence. Italian media reported that 131 others were acquitted or exempted from punishment under the statute of limitations. Most of them reportedly plan to appeal their convictions.
The ‘Ndrangheta is the most powerful criminal group in the world, with operations on all inhabited continents and generating annual profits estimated at 53 billion euros ($58 billion), according to the Demoscopita research institute.
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