The Italian judiciary announces today its decision in trial 322 accused as members of the Drangheta, the most powerful mafia of the Italian peninsula that maintains a near-monopoly on cocaine trafficking in Europe. In total5,000 years in prison are proposed against the 322 defendants, godfathers and subordinates of the Calabrian mafia, as well as accomplices, public officials, elected officials and high-ranking police officers.
Based in Calabria, a poor region of the south Italy, the Drangheta is the richest and most powerful of the Italian mafias, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Neapolitan Camorra. With a presence in around forty countries, it exerts suffocating control in its place of origin, penetrating and corrupting the public administration and imposing its iron will on the population.
From January 2021, when the drangheta mammoth trial, three judges listened for thousands of hours to the testimonies of the witnesses, including fifty repentant mobsters who cooperated with justice, regarding the activities of the Mancuso family and its associates, an important Drangheta faction that controls the province of Vibo Valentia.
The “godfather” of Vibo Valentia province, Luigi Mancuso, 69, was arrested in 2019 and is being tried separately.
The trial, which is being held in a high-security bunker in the city of Lamezia Terme, is the most important trial against the mafia in 30 years. Various indictments: gang formation, drug trafficking, extortion, usury, money laundering…
During the trial, the defendants described in detail the mechanisms of Drangheta violence, the exercise of its power over the local population, extortion, the rigging of contests and elections, the methods of obtaining weapons… They revealed secrets about the weapons caches in cemeteries or the ambulances used to transport drugs and the way municipal water is misappropriated to irrigate marijuana plantations.
This morning, at the start of the session, a businessman, a victim of the mafia, arrived as he has every week since the start of the trial to express his support “to those who help us free ourselves, the judges and prosecutors”.
But Rocco Mazzardi, 67, told AFP he regretted the “deafening silence” of the Italian media on the court case and the absence of ordinary citizens in the audience.
Multinational crime syndicate
Those who oppose the mafia are threatened, exterminated. They discover dead kittens or the head of a goat or dolphin on their doorstep. Cars are set on fire, shop windows are destroyed. Some are beaten or shot. Others simply disappear forever.
In a sign of Drangheta’s penetration of legitimate economic activity, company directors, mayors and civil servants, including a high-ranking police officer, are sitting in the dock. One of the best known is the 70-year-old lawyer Giancarlo Pitelli, a former MP and senator of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role as an intermediary between the Calabrian mafia and Italy’s political world. Underestimated at first, the Drangheta grew discreetly and quietly for decades, while the authorities concentrated all their efforts on Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia described in the movie “The Godfather”.
Alas, the first mammoth trial against the Sicilian mafia took place in Palermo in 1986 and resulted in the conviction of 338 mobsters. Today, experts believe that the Drangheta, made up of around 150 Calabrian families, have annual turnover of 50 billion euros in the whole world.
With the help of Interpol, Italy has managed in recent years to tighten the cord around the criminal network, prompting police around the world to track down Drangheta’s activities on their soil and pursue them.
But despite its enormity, the trial is not expected to disrupt Drangheta’s operations, experts say. “I don’t believe that one police operation is enough to destroy the Drangeta”, says Antonio Nicazzo who considers that there are other priorities: employment, education and changing attitudes. “We need these to attack a criminal organization.”
Source: News Beast
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