Italy targets violent clan in biggest mafia trial in decades By Reuters

3/3 © Reuters. Trial of 355 alleged members of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia opens in Lamezia Terme 2/3

By Yara Nardi and Gabriele Pileri LAMEZIA TERME, Italy (Reuters) – One of the largest mafia trials in Italian history began on Wednesday, with more than 320 suspected mobsters and their associates facing a series of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and robbery. The case is aimed at the ‘Ndrangheta clan, which is based in Calabria, the tip of the boot of Italy, and is considered by prosecutors to be the most powerful gangster group in the country, easily overshadowing Sicily’s most famous Cosa Nostra gang. . The trial is taking place in a converted call center in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, with the defendants placed in metal cages and rows of desks set up for the hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors, journalists and spectators expected to attend. Many of the defendants are white-collar workers, including lawyers, accountants, businessmen, local politicians and police officers, who, according to Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, voluntarily helped the ‘Ndrangheta build its empire of crime. Speaking to reporters when he entered court, Gratteri said the investigation had encouraged locals to speak up. “In the last two years we have seen an increase in the demands of oppressed businessmen and citizens, victims of usury, people who for years have lived under the threats of the ‘Ndrangheta,” said the prosecutor, who has been fighting for more than 30 years. . Mafia. The state will call 913 witnesses and use 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations to support the myriad charges. Gratteri said he expected the trial to take a year to complete, and that the court had to meet six days a week. A further 92 suspects have opted for an expedited trial in the same case, with their hearings set to begin in late January, while a much smaller group of defendants will be tried in February for five murders, including the murder of a gunman from the mafia. who was shot and killed because he was gay, prosecutors say. The last time Italy tried hundreds of suspected gangsters simultaneously was in 1986 in Palermo in a case that marked a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra, marking the beginning of the group’s steep decline. That trial had a huge impact because it targeted numerous Mafia families. The Calabrian trial focuses primarily on a single group, the Mancuso clan of Vibo Valentia province, leaving much of the higher hierarchy of the ‘Ndrangheta intact. “The road ahead is still very long, but we must not give up because there are thousands of people who believe in us. We cannot let them down,” Gratteri told Reuters. (Reporting and writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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