HUNDREDS of alleged mobsters from Italy's most powerful mafia group will face justice in the country's biggest organised crime trial in decades.
The Uncle, The Wolf, Fatty, Big Nose and Blondie are among the 355 suspected mobsters and corrupt officials charged following a long inquiry into the influential 'Ndrangheta group.
There are so many of the accused mafia members and their accomplices involved in the trial that it took more than three hours to read out their names in a recent pre-trial hearing, reported news agency AFP.
But like the classic Godfather films, this trial revolves primarily around one group, the Mancuso family, which forms a powerful part of the extensive 'Ndrangheta mafia.
A probe by the Demoskopika research institute estimated the group’s turnover to amount to £44bn a year in 2013, including drug trafficking and illegal rubbish dumping.
More than 900 witnesses are expected to give evidence, with the charge sheet clocking up murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.
With more than 1,000 people involved in the proceedings, Italy has had to create a dedicated trial bunker in the southern region of Calabria, right at the heart of 'Ndrangheta territory.
The fortified courtroom, formerly a call centre in the town of Lamezia Terme, is expected to be home to the Rinascita-Scott trial for at least the next two years.
THE UNCLE, THE WOLF, FATTY & BLONDIE
The highest-profile defendant in the case is the alleged clan boss Luigi Mancuso, 66, also known as “The Uncle”.
His nephew Emanuele Mancuso, the son of alleged mob boss Luni Mancuso, is expected to testify against him in what is likely to be an explosive part of the trial, reported the Irish Times.
Other suspected gangsters are said to go by nicknames such as "The Wolf", "Fatty", "Big Nose" and "Blondie", while others on trial include politicians, police officers, and civil servants.
Who are the defendants?
Like in any suspected gangster cabal, there’s an array of memorable nicknames:
- The Uncle
- The Wolf
- Big Nose
- Little Goat
- The Wringer
There are 355 defendants in total, plus another 92 suspects who chose a separate fast-tracked trial.
The sprawling range of defendants also includes another 92 suspects who chose a separate fast-tracked trial.
These include Giancarlo Pittelli, a lawyer and former senator for ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.
At the heart of the case is Italy's most famous anti-mafia prosecutor, 62-year-old Nicola Gratteri, who has lived under police protection for more than three decades.
The prosecutor has revealed he is undeterred by the task ahead, despite being called a “dead man walking” by members of the mafia, reported Sky News.
“You need to have broad shoulders and nerves of steel,” he told Sky News.
“You need to stay calm and not get caught up in emotion or tension. You need to rationalise every emotion because the goal is important and fundamental.
“It is always worth doing what you believe in. Sacrifices are made if you believe that you are on the right side and that you are doing something useful to the community.”
Almost all of the defendants were arrested in December 2019 after a long investigation that began in 2016 and covered around 11 Italian regions.
Up to 2,500 officers participated in raids focused on suspects in Vibo Valentia, Calabria, the heart of an area controlled mainly by the ’Ndrangheta’s Mancuso clan.
An elite police unit known as the Cacciatori, or “the hunters”, arrested suspects hiding in self-constructed bunkers located behind sliding staircases, secret trapdoors and manholes.
“This trial shows how deeply rooted the 'Ndrangheta is in society,” Federico Varese, professor of criminology at Oxford University, told AFP.
“It's shocking that you have a criminal group so rooted in the territory you have to put hundreds of people on trial.”
The last time such a large-scale case was brought to trial was in 1986-92, when Sicilian prosecutors put 475 people in the dock during the Palermo maxi-trial.
But he warned that despite the intense court action ahead, it was unlikely to be the end of organised crime in Italy.
“You can throw them in jail but if you don't take away the root causes of why they exist, they'll just reproduce,” added Prof Varese.
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