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"This is war": Italy's best anti-Mafia prosecutor opens a case against 450 alleged gangsters


Italy's best anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri (62) closes a trial against 450 members of the Ndrangheta family.

On Friday, the prosecutor, who has lived under close police protection for the past 30 years as a prime target for families with mafia crimes, opened his latest trial against the syndicate.

The case opened in Rome is the largest anti-Mafia prosecution since the Maxiprocesso trial of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in the mid-1980s.

Italy's top anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri has opened a case against 450 members of the Ndrangheta family charged with a variety of serious crimes including kidnapping, drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion

The Gratteri center shown has been under constant police protection for 30 years, as it is constantly threatened by the various families of the mafia criminals

The Gratteri center shown has been under constant police protection for 30 years, as it is constantly threatened by the various families of the mafia criminals

Gratteri hopes to send more than 450 suspected clan members to prison for belonging to a criminal gang that allegedly built their fortune and creepy reputation through extortion, money laundering, kidnapping, drug trafficking and so-called vendettas.

He said: & # 39; It's a war. We talk about violence, about death, ”added the public prosecutor, who is based in the southern Italian city and the stronghold of Ndrangheta in Catanzaro, where he lives with constant death threats.

Gratteri described the case as "historic" and believed it was the most important in Italy's fight against gangsters since the "Maxi" trial that eventually resulted in the conviction of hundreds of Cosa Nostra members.

However, those hearings were marred by violence, including a Mafia hit against famous judge and prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, who was murdered in 1992 with his wife and three police officers.

When the formalities in Rome are completed and a fortified courthouse has been built in Calabria, the hearings will be relocated to the southern region of Italy, where no fewer than 600 lawyers and 200 civil parties will be present.

Hundreds of "Ndrangheta crime bosses, underbosses and" soldiers "were arrested in December during one of the largest police raids against the Criminal Syndicate in years

Hundreds of "Ndrangheta crime bosses, underbosses and" soldiers "were arrested in December during one of the largest police raids against the Criminal Syndicate in years

Hundreds of suspected "Ndrangheta crime bosses, underbosses and" soldiers "were arrested in December during one of the largest police raids on the Criminal Syndicate in years.

The dive extended to Germany, Bulgaria and Switzerland and brought together a former MP and the head of the Calabrian mayors' association.

The charges range from usury to murder, which is often exacerbated by the Italian Article 416 bis Criminal Code against participation in mafia-like associations.

For many years, the & # 39; Ndrangheta has been considered the poorer cousin of well-known mob groups such as the Cosa Nostra and Napolis Camorra and has since surpassed them to become Italy's most powerful criminal organization.

The & # 39; Ndrangheta is a modern and feared gang of criminals, whose name comes from unknown sources, but is said to have been derived from the Greek meaning to increase manhood and courage.

It controls part of the international cocaine trafficking network with bases in New York, Colombia, and Brazil, has infiltrated the construction industry, manages European-based funds, and even funeral contracts that are now being amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

& # 39; The & # 39; Ndrangheta is greatly feared for its ferocity and cruelty. At the same time, it's very modern – and ready to flood European markets with tons of cocaine, ”said the grizzled prosecutor.

The crime gang has nearly £ 50 billion in annual sales with contacts around the world

The crime gang has nearly £ 50 billion in annual sales with contacts around the world

According to the Italian judiciary, there are around 20,000 Ndrangheta members worldwide who run a company that has annual sales of more than 50 billion euros (59 billion US dollars).

The upcoming trial of the & # 39; Ndrangheta appears to have been a heavy blow, but it cannot be compared to the Maxi trial opened in Palermo in 1986, said criminologist Anna Sergi.

"They toppled the heads of every large family during the Cosa Nostra Maxi process, but this operation did not," said Sergi, associate professor at the University of Essex.

"Some great people … are going to be tried, but I wouldn't say that if they are all arrested this will mean the same," Sergi told AFP.

Made famous by Hollywood, the Mafia first appeared in Sicily about 150 years ago and has since become firmly established in Italy.

Italian judicial sources claim the Ndrangheta has around 20,000 members worldwide

Italian judicial sources claim the Ndrangheta has around 20,000 members worldwide

Over the years it has diversified, modernized and is highly developed.

At the same time, law enforcement has also made leaps thanks to international collaboration, digital file sharing, and new technologies like thermal cameras, drones, and cyber surveillance – and the dedication of prosecutors like Gratteri.

However, law enforcement has never fully managed to reduce the hydra in a country where complicity is found "at all levels of state administration," Sergi said.

"The mafias are not external bodies of our otherwise well-functioning society, they are the mirror of our functioning," added Gratteri, quoting the late Judge Falcone.

"Italy cannot admit it, it makes them an enemy and forgets that it (the mafia) is part of who we are," he said.

"There is a little 'ndranghetist' in each of us," Gratteri said.

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