In the greatest mob bust in years, Italy opened
a huge trial linked to the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate in the southern region of Calabria on Wednesday.
The ‘Ndrangheta – headed by the infamous Mancuso family – are one of the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking syndicates, controlling over 80%
of Europe’s cocaine trade.
by the Demoskopika Research Institute found the syndicate is richer than Deutsche Bank and McDonalds combined, bringing home an annual revenue of $55bn.
But the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed the traditional realm of drug trafficking, using shell companies to reinvest illegal gains in the legitimate economy. Federico Varese, criminologist at Oxford University, says
the mob infiltrates every area of life in Calabria:
“If you want to open a shop, if you want to build anything, you have to go through them. They are the authority.”
Who’s on trial? 325 people. At a pre-trial hearing, it took over three hours to read the names of all the defendants. The list includes leaders of the ‘Ndrangehta, national politicians, civil servants and white collar professionals. The most high profile defendant is 66-year-old clan leader Luigi Mancuso, nicknamed “The Uncle”.
Prosecutors are hoping the trial, codenamed Rinascita (‘Rebirth’), will untangle an intricate web of crime - including murder, extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Historic. This is the most far-reaching action against a criminal organization in Italy since the Sicilian mafia trials in the ‘80s. Those same trials that led to the Sicilian mafia’s decline helped clear the way for the 'Ndrangheta’s rise.
Looking ahead… the prosecution’s biggest obstacle is ‘snitches get stitches.’ They’re hoping having a high-profile trial will encourage witnesses to come forward and break the culture of silence surrounding the ‘Ndrangheta.
The star witness so far is Emanuele Mancuso, nephew of mob boss Luigi, who’s been revealing the clan’s secrets under police protection. He’s set to testify against his uncle.
Also under police protection is the chief prosecutor, Nicola Graterri. Despite several plots to kill him, Gratteri remains undeterred in his aim
- “To make more livable a region that has been martyrized for over a decade.”