As defendants incarcerated in prisons across the nation watched via videolink, Brigida Cavasino, the president of the court in southern Vibo Valentia, steadily read out the guilty parties ‘ names and sentences, which ranged from 30 years to a few months.
For 322 accused mafia members operating in the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentium and their collaborators, who have effectively oppressed the local populace, the prosecution had requested sentences totaling nearly 5, 000 years.
But after a two-year, nine-month trial, the court handed down less than half of that total sentence—roughly 2,150 years—on Monday, convicting 207 defendants. Four seasoned Ndrangheta members who had each received a three-year prison sentence were among them.
131 defendants were exonerated by the three-judge panel, including one accused of aiding in the theft of a public road and adjacent private land for the purpose of raising sheep.
Giancarlo Pittelli, a 70-year-old former parliamentarian and defense lawyer who was charged with setting up the mafia, was one of the trial’s most prominent defendants, underscoring the” Ndrangheta” s close ties to the powerful.
Short of the 17 years the prosecution had demanded, he was given 11 years.
A small group of family members sat in the back of the large, cramped courtroom, occasionally crying out in joy over a light sentence while glancing at the television screens to see their loved ones incarcerated.
Despite Monday’s acquittals, the verdicts—which can be appealed twice—mark the biggest blow to date against one of the most potent organized crime syndicates in the world. They capcapped the largest mafia trial in Italy in decades.
The verdict, according to Giuseppe Borrello, the local representative for the anti-mafia organization Libera, demonstrated that the prosecution’s efforts were fruitful even though they fell short of all suspects.
The most crucial factor, according to Borrello, is that the road is still long but has been charted out.
The verdict sends a strong message:” The sense of impunity that has frequently been felt in our territory is gone.”
shakedowns and ambushes
The” Ndrangheta,” which is now present in more than 40 countries worldwide, has flourished beyond its roots in the impoverished region of Calabria, at the tip of Italy.
Thousands of hours of testimony, including from more than 50 former mafia members who later became state witnesses, detailing numerous instances of the” Ndrangheta’s brutality and its iron grip on the territory, have been heard by the court since the trial started in January 2021.
They include engaging in violent ambushes, overthrowing business owners, rigging public tenders, amassing weapons, gathering votes, and giving the powerful kickbacks.
Despite its size, the trial concentrated on just one prominent”Ndrangheta” clan” or familygroup, which predominated Vibo Valentia, one of the many rural areas in the area with low economic growth.
The 69-year-old Luigi” The Supreme” Mancuso, the undisputed leader of the region, was removed from the list of defendants last year for a separate trial.
Many non-mafia members, including police, public servants, and others, were on the defendants list for the first time in such trials.
A high-ranking financial police officer employed by Italy’s anti-mafia department was given a 10-year prison sentence by the court.
He was found guilty of giving the” Ndrangheta” information from judicial investigations, just like another police officer who was sentenced to two and a half years.
” We do n’t want you,” she said.
The trial revealed how the” Ndrangheta,” whose members have nicknames that are straight out of Hollywood’s Wolf,” Fatty,”” Sweetie,” and” Lamb Thigh,” terrorized its citizens for decades while suffocating the local economy and infiltrating public institutions.
Informants described how weapons were concealed in cemetery chapels, ambulances used to transport drugs, and municipal water supplies were diverted to marijuana crops. This is a relatively uncommon occurrence within the” Ndrangheta” due to blood ties between members.
Dead puppies, dolphins, or goat heads were left on doorsteps by those who opposed themafia, and sledgehammers were taken to storefronts or burned cars.
Those who were shot at, beaten, or had their bodies never recovered were less fortunate.
In the heavily guarded courtroom bunker in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, hundreds of attorneys and a few dozen media representatives attended the sentencing.
A local businessman named Rocco Mangiardi, 67, who was one of the first judges to accuse the” Ndrangheta” of extortion in 2009, was also present.
Mangiardi, who has since lived under police escort, bemoaned the low turnout for the trial’s pivotal moment, telling AFP that it needed to be “filled with citizens… to show the judges that we’re on their side.”
As authorities concentrated their efforts against Sicily’s Cosa Nostra– defendants in the first, now-famous maxi-trial of 1986- 1987 in Palermo– the” Ndrangheta” flourished under the radar for decades.
According to mafia experts, the” Ndrangheta,” which consists of about 150 Calabrian families and their associates, earns more than 50 billion euros ($ 53 billion ) annually from extortion, usury, syphoning public funds, and drug trafficking.
The” Ndrangheta” cements its power by investing illegal gains in the legitimate global economy through frontmen and shell companies.