It took three judges more than an hour and a half to read the verdicts of the largest mafia trial held in Italy in decades. This Monday the powerful Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, the largest criminal organization in Italy, has suffered a severe blow with the conviction of more than 200 people, the end of the maxi-trial against the 'ndrina' for which there were 338 defendants. Another 70 defendants have already been sentenced after opting for an accelerated procedure to see their sentences reduced.
Of them, 207 have been found guilty, and all their sentences total some 2,100 years in prison, less than half of the 4,700 years claimed by the Prosecutor's Office. The biggest sentences have gone to mafia bosses such as the head of the San Gregorio d'Ipona area, Saverio Razionale; that of Sant'Onofrio, Domenico Bonavota; or that of the Lo Bianco clan, Paolino Lo Bianco. They all have 30 years behind bars. But former Berlusconi senator Giancarlo Pittelli, 80, has also been sentenced to 11 years, accused of mafia collaboration; and a carabinieri lieutenant, Giorgio Naselli, sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Among those convicted are lawyers, businessmen, accountants, police officers, municipal or court officials. The majority of those convicted were arrested in 2019 in a large coup, baptized as “Rinascita Scott”, led by the anti-mafia prosecutor of Catanzaro, Nicola Gratteri, who has lived for thirty years under police escort and has become the biggest enemy of organized crime in this region. Gratteri, also a Calabrian, could have suffered the same fate as some of the people he has persecuted. In fact, he has said that as a child he played soccer with some of the gangsters that he ended up putting behind bars.
This is the largest operation against the mafia since the offensive that led to the maxi-trial in Palermo against Cosa Nostra, when 450 Sicilian mafia members were tried. Prosecutors hope that the 'Ndrangheta, the most powerful and unknown of the Italian mafias, will suffer the same punishment as Cosa Nostra, dismembered after the great historic trial in the 1980s led by the popular anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, both murdered in 1992.
In that Sicilian macro-trial, Falcone managed to have a trial of this magnitude held in Palermo for the first time, to give a sign of the presence of the State in Sicily. On this occasion they wanted to repeat the message and a bunker room was built in an industrial area of Lamezia Terme, at the tip of the Italian boot, to hold the trial safely and in Calabria itself.
The 'Ndrangheta is today the main distributor of cocaine in Europe. Experts consider that they bill about 50,000 million euros each year, and it is believed that in Calabria alone there are about 20,000 gangsters left, who have learned the lessons of the Sicilian mafia, move more discreetly and commit fewer blood crimes. This has allowed them to infiltrate the entire Italian market, but also in Spain, Belgium and Holland. In Calabria, land where omertà wins and the place with the lowest per capita income in Italy, the 'ndrina has consciously built precariousness so that no one can survive economically if they confront them.
Since January 2021, when this maxi-trial began, the magistrates have heard thousands of hours of testimonies, among them some repentant mafia members who have become collaborators of justice, or pentiti. They have discovered some chilling details, for example, how they used cemeteries to hide weapons or ambulances to transport drugs, and above all how the Vibo Valentia clan exerted its influence for years, extending its networks both in public institutions and in the local economy. . They even modified the municipal water system to irrigate marijuana plantations. Those who dared to confront them were terrorized with the heads of goats or dolphins in front of their homes or found their vehicles set on fire. Others disappeared, without a trace.