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Anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri has spent 30 years tackling organised crime groups
An Italian court has sentenced 70 members of the powerful mafia group, the ‘Ndrangheta, in the first stage of the biggest mafia trial in decades.
Defendants faced charges including attempted murder and extortion.
Over the next two years, 355 alleged mobsters and corrupt officials will face court for their involvement with Italy’s richest and most powerful organised crime group.
Hundreds of lawyers and nearly a thousand witnesses are involved.
Saturday’s “maxi trials” took place behind closed doors in a specially converted courtroom in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme.
Those accused had opted for a speedy trial which allowed them to have their sentences reduced by a third if found guilty. Judges handed six of those convicted the maximum 20-year sentence that prosecutors had asked for.
Another 21 defendants were acquitted.
The ‘Ndrangheta is a sprawling criminal network consisting of some 150 families. This trial is targeting just one of those: The Mancuso family.
The lengthy charge sheet includes an array of drugs charges, murder, attempted murder, extortion, loan sharking, disclosure of official secrets and abuse of office.
Alleged boss Luigi Mancuso, 67, who goes by the nickname “the Uncle”, and ex-senator Giancarlo Pittelli, 68, who prosecutors have alleged was his white-collar fixer, will face longer court trials at a later date.
Leading the case is Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy’s most respected anti-mafia chief prosecutors. He has spent decades tackling the Italian crime gangs and as a consequence has lived under police protection for more than 30 years.
Mr Gratteri vowed earlier this year to take down “this asphyxiating ‘Ndrangheta, which truly takes the breath and the heartbeat from the people” and told reporters that Saturday’s sentencing had “gone very well”.
The ‘Ndrangheta rose to prominence after the maxi trials of the late 1980s, which significantly weakened Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia families.
The ‘Ndrangheta is involved in a wide range of illegal activities, but it specialises in cocaine trafficking and is believed to control about 80% of Europe’s trade.