(CN) — Italian prosecutors have struck a blow against the 'ndrangheta with the conviction of 70 mobsters and others as part of a historic “maxi-trial” against Italy's most powerful organized crime group.
The 70 convictions and sentences were announced Saturday inside a massive fortified courtroom outside the city of Lamezia Terme in Calabria, a poor southern region that is home to the 'ndrangheta crime families.
Suspects who chose to have their cases fast-tracked in exchange for leniency received the sentences. More than 300 other suspects, including alleged mafia bosses, are being tried during separate proceedings inside the gigantic fortified courtroom.
The trial is the result of a large-scale police raid in December 2019, when about 2,500 police officers and military agents stormed Calabria and raided the 'ndrangheta's most secretive hideouts. They made mass arrests of individuals, including some public officials, suspected of being part of the 'ndrangheta. The sting's success was built on years' worth of secret police wiretaps.
On Saturday, six men received the maximum 20-year sentence, including Domenico Macri, a top 'ndrangheta leader accused of being part of the group's military wing, and Pasquale Gallone, the right-hand man of alleged mob boss Luigi Mancuso, who is being tried as part of the longer trial. Also convicted was Gregorio Niglia, who was convicted of procuring weapons and extortion.
Others, including mobsters who turned into government informants, were given sentences ranging from about one year to 18 years. About a third received 10 years or more in prison and 21 were acquitted, seven at the request of prosecutors.
Under Italian law, those convicted at a speedy trial can have their sentences reduced by a third.
The 'ndrangheta's global business and profits are estimated to be worth about $72 billion a year — about triple the banner year that McDonald's just had — according to Demoskopika, an Italian financial analysis firm. Its study was based on information provided by Italy's interior ministry.
While famous for cornering cocaine markets, the crime syndicate has been moving into other less dangerous businesses, such as real estate. Its “cosche” — a term to describe a close-knit group of mafiosi — are working on all five continents. In 2010, Italy outlawed the 'ndrangheta.
The 'ndrangheta is based around exclusive family bonds, even more so than Sicily's old mafia families, so it was a major achievement for prosecutors to get some members to switch sides and become informants.
These legal proceedings are being compared to a trial in Palermo against Sicily's Cosa Nostra mafia between 1986 and 1987. That maxi-trial put about 460 Sicilian mafiosi on trial and many were convicted, delivering a severe blow to what was then the world's most feared crime group. But the defeat of the Sicilian mafia opened the way for Calabria's crime families to fill the void.
The hope is this trial will do the same for Calabria. The defendants include hardened criminals, businessmen, politicians, police, middlemen and hired guns.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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