1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Italy put 350 suspected mafia members in the dock

January 13, 2021

Italian authorities started the trial of 350 alleged members of the 'ndrangheta group. Defendants include politicians, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

A police officer wearing a mask stands in the foreground of a big hall where the trial is set to take place.
The trial is taking place in a bunker made to accommodate for the major caseImage: Gianluca Chininea/AFP/Getty Images

Italy began the trial of 350 suspected members and aides of the organized crime group 'ndrangheta, including politicians, lawyers and businessmen, in the southern region of Calabria on Wednesday.   

The trial is the biggest to prosecute organized crime in the past three decades.  

The defendants are charged with various crimes dating back to the 1990s, including drug trafficking, murder, illegal possession of weapons and money laundering.  

Prosecutors expect to hear testimony from over 900 witnesses, many of whom would be breaking the mafia's code of silence. Some 90 suspects are set to have a summary trial on January 27.   

Italy's largest mafia trial to begin

The trial is taking place in the city of Lamezia Terme in a building made to accommodate the large size of the case.  

In 2018, a wave of arrests in Italy paved the way to the trial, as the country aims to crack down on organized crime. 

Authorities also arrested suspected aides and members of the group in Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland.  

The trial addresses one family, the Mancuso group, and its network in Calabria.   


Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said the case requires a "maxi-trial," citing the power structure in the organization of power-wielding families.  

'Maxi-trials" are major legal cases where defendants are tried at once on many charges. 

"I have to start with the idea that there's an organization, as in a business, as in a large multinational, with a boss and then down, like a pyramid, to all the other members," Gratteri said.     

Italy estimates around 150 families are involved in the 'ndrangheta group in Calabria, with more than 6,000 affiliates around the country and thousands more worldwide. 

The group has taken in more than €50 billion ($61 billion) annually, Gratteri said, describing the 'ndrangheta as the richest organized crime group in the world.

In 1986, prosecutors hit the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia group with 338 guilty charges in Italy's most famous maxi trial.

The mob assassinated two prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, after the trial.

Power in public life 

According to experts, the 'ndrangheta is involved in all areas of public service in parts of Calabria, including hospitals, city hall and courts.  

Graterri said the group gained more political and economic power, investing its gains in the legitimate economy.  

Criminologist Federico Varese described the organization as "the authority."  

"The real strength of these mafia families is they have control of the territory, and within the territory, they do everything," said Varese. "If you want to open a shop, if you want to build anything, you have to go through them." 

The 'ndrangheta is based in the south Italian region of Calabria, although the organization has expanded its power far beyond Italian borders, reaching Australia, Europe and North America

The 'ndrangheta is also considered a leading smuggler of cocaine in Europe.  

fb (AFP/DPA)