Italy’s largest mafia trial in 30 years is beginning in a former call centre turned courtroom, including cages to hold some of the 355 defendants.
The case against members of the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s richest and most powerful crime syndicate, will involve more than 900 witnesses testifying against those charged, including politicians and public officials as well as suspected gangsters.
In order to hold the trial in a secure and COVID-safe capacity, Italian authorities have built a 1,000-person capacity courtroom in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, located in the south of the country. Those who can appear in person will do so in cages built into the courtroom, 2 metres apart. Many, however, will be appearing via video link.
The case is being brought by Calabrian-born prosecutor Nicola Gratteri and his team, who will present over 24,000 wiretaps as part of the trial. Gratteri, who has been dubbed a “dead man walking” by the mafia, is Italy’s most high profile anti-mafia prosecutor, and has lived under police protection for years.
The ‘Ndrangheta mafia – based in Calabria – are Italy’s most affluent crime group and have been reported to earn more than 53 billion euros (about £44 billion) annually. They have built a vast financial empire through sophisticated laundering techniques, as well as through the importation of cocaine and arms.
The group are also known for using archaic fugitive techniques, utilising underground tunnels and trap doors to avoid arrest, including using bunkers hidden in remote, mountainous areas only accessible by foot. They are also said to have hideouts hidden in the Calabrian woods for members to take cover when on the run.
The trial comes after almost five years of investigations and major arrests which took place in December 2019. Codenamed '“Rinascita” meaning rebirth, it is hoped the trial will mark and end to the widespread corruption and intimidation that has plagued Calabria for decades.