GP Short Notes # 777, 22 November 2023
Italy: Ndrangheta mafia defendants sentenced 2,200 years of prison
On 20 November, Italy’s court sentenced 200 defendants linked to the Ndrangheta, a criminal organisation to more than 2,200 years in jail. The trail which lasted for three years brought out the organisation’s influence in southern Italy’s politics and society. Among the civil servants, white collar workers, businessmen, professionals, and industry officials sentenced, former Italian senator from Silvio Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia received a 11-year sentence.
The trial was conducted in a high-security courtroom held the group for charges against “Murder, extortion, drug-trafficking, loan sharking, abuse of office and money laundering.” It is one of the largest since 1980’s which included thousands of hours of testimony by judges, showcased how the organisation had expanded its operations to South America and Australia. It has carried out mass infiltration into local economy, public institutions, health system, public tenders and bribing.
Who are the Ndrangheta?
Ndrangheta is one of the powerful mafia organisation spread across Europe and the world. It originated from Calabria located in southern Italy and expanded since 1970’s by investing the money from kidnapping into public projects and drug trafficking. During this period the group kidnapped many high-profile victims, and celebrities. Through this income it ventured into businesses in legal and illegal forms and was estimated to be valued at EUR 44 billion in 2008 with 20,000 members. Only in 2010, the organisation was identified as mafia under Italian law. The road to its prominence was its unique system of family structure, which attracted Colombian and Mexican drug producers to sell drugs into Europe. Due to this system, any feud within the family members would result in killing, this was particularly known as the “San Luca Feud” where six family members were killed. This was identified as traditional criminal group, which can be divided into two. The Crimine, the organisation’s supreme council and the Mandamenti, comprising of regional ‘ndrina clans. According to a German journalist, Petra Reski, these clans are equally represented making the group less vulnerable if the bosses are arrested. The organisation also allows formation of smaller clans who can connect with global market of narcotics under its brand. Originating from southern Italy, the Ndrangheta spread into northern Italy in 1950’s and has far-reaching operations in 31 countries with more outposts in Toronto, Australia, the EU and Germany for money laundering.
How did the trial evolve?
On 13 January 2021, the trail began following the arrest in December 2019 which involved investigations from 11 areas in Italy since 2016. More than 2500 officers participated in the raids, where 355 mobsters, corrupt officials were charged for murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering. The suspect total increased when 92 among them chose for a fast-track trial. 900 witnesses who were former mafia members agreed to contribute to the trial for evidence.
The trial was aimed at the Mancuso family which forms base for the evolution of the organisation, it is one of the bases for Ndrangheta out of the 150 clans. Mobsters who were involved with the Mancuso family later became collaborators with justice system gave testimony. The trial showcased how the group has been in control of supply of huge amounts cocaine through Europe and South America, but the charges extend beyond this to “mafia association, loan sharking, disclosure of official secrets and abuse of office.” It brought out the deep-rooted engagement of the group such as hiding of weapons in chapel cemeteries, using of ambulance for drug transport, and diverting public water supplies to grow marijuana infiltrating to the deepest of the society.
Under the extensive charges of influencing politics and society, more than 200 defendants were sentenced to 2,200 years of jail after the three-year trail.
Davide Ghiglione, “Italy mafia trial: 200 sentenced to 2,200 years for mob links,” BBC, 20 November 2023
“Italy 'Ndrangheta group: Biggest mafia trial in decades opens,” BBC, 13 January 2021
Giada Zampano and Paolo Santalucia, “More than 200 convicted in Italy’s maxi-trial involving the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate,” Associated Press, 20 November 2023
“Ndrangheta: what is the Italian mafia group raided by police in Europe?,” Reuters, 04 May 2023
Ezgi Toper, “Who are the 'Ndrangheta? Italy's most powerful crime syndicate,” TRT World, 2021