After a nearly three-year-long trial, hundreds of accused individuals linked to the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the country’s most influential organized criminal groups, will face sentencing.
Verdicts are expected on Monday in the trial of hundreds of people accused of membership in Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate, one of the world’s most powerful, widespread and wealthy drug trafficking groups.
The trial began nearly three years ago in the southern Calabria region, where the mob organization was originally based. As the influence of the Sicilian Mafia waned, the ‘Ndrangheta quietly amassed power in Italy and abroad. The organization has been expanding its reach for decades, establishing bases in Western, Northern and Central Europe, Australia, and North and South America. It is also active in Africa.
More than 320 defendants are facing a variety of charges, including drug and weapons trafficking, extortion and mafia association – a term in Italy’s penal code for members of organized crime groups. Some individuals have been accused of collusion with the ‘Ndrangheta without formal membership.
The test unfolded in a specially constructed high-security bunker within an industrial park in Lamezia Terme. The extensive facility required the installation of several video screens suspended from the ceiling to enable participants to follow the proceedings.
The main suspect, Luigi Mancuso, previously served 19 years in an Italian prison for leading one of the most powerful crime families within the ‘Ndrangheta in Vibo Valentia.
Despite historically being resistant to informants due to family ties, the ‘Ndrangheta is seeing an increase in the number of defectors. A relative of Mancuso’s was among those who provided evidence in the Lamezia Term trial.
Although the trial has an impressive number of defendants, it does not surpass Italy’s largest mob trial in 1986. In Palermo, a specially constructed bunker hosted the trial of 475 alleged members of Cosa Nostra, resulting in over 300 convictions and 19 life sentences.
In contrast, the ‘Ndrangheta trial aims to expose alleged collusion between mobsters and local politicians, public officials, businessmen and members of secret lodges, exposing the syndicate’s deep hold in the region.
Fueled by revenues from cocaine trafficking, the ‘Ndrangheta has invested in various businesses, including hotels, restaurants, pharmacies and car dealerships throughout Italy, with a particular focus on Rome and the prosperous north.
The investigation revealed a massive buying spree across Europe, as the ‘Ndrangheta sought to launder illicit funds and generate “clean” wealth through legitimate enterprises, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors.