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What is the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia whose trial begins on Wednesday?

Italy is preparing for an extraordinary trial. More than 350 defendants and suspects with nicknames worthy of the godfather: “kid”, “the wolf”, “hat” …

Absolutely unprecedented, this trial that begins in Calabria this Wednesday is aimed at the ‘Ndrangheta, the bloodiest mafia that, according to experts, reaches an annual turnover of 50,000 million euros thanks to the cocaine traffic, of which it has the monopoly in Europe. More than 350 defendants, 900 witnesses will be heard in a 3,000 square meter bunker room.

To achieve this maxi-test, it took more than four years of investigation and above all, an extraordinary magistrate: Nicola Gratteri, Catanzaro prosecutor. Born in the town of Gerace, in the heart of Calabria, he has lived under police escort for thirty years and grew up with the sons of bosses who in turn became mob bosses.

He went to the same school, played soccer together, and frequently attended crime scenes in the middle of the street. Furthermore, all these bullet-riddled bodies gave rise to a desire to dedicate his life to fighting the ‘Ndrangheta.

The ‘Ndrangheta, the most powerful of the mafias

This criminal organization is considered by experts as the most powerful Italian mafia after it. it supplanted the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Neapolitan Camorra. His name is said to be of Greek origin, the word “andranghateia” refers to “a group of men of honor” and the word “andrangatho” which means “to carry out military action”.

The ‘Ndrangheta has only been considered a mafia in Italian law since 2010, but its origins date back at least to the unification of Italy in 1861. It became known in the 1980s and 1990s through a series of kidnappings. In particular, the kidnapping in Rome in the 1970s of the grandson of the American oil magnate Jean Paul Getty is suspected.

20,000 members worldwide

Nobody knows exactly what the figures are, but according to Italian justice, it has at least 20,000 members worldwide. According to magistrate Roberto di Bella, the ‘Ndrangheta is the criminal organization “with the most branches and present in the five continents.”

The ‘Ndrangheta’ deals with international drug trafficking and the typical activities of criminal organizations, settling of accounts, extortion, illegal waste trafficking, money laundering“Roberto di Bella explains to AFP. What sets her apart from other mafias is her family structure,” which makes her very reliable because there is little regret.

“The huge flow of money from drugs allows’ Ndrangheta to buy everything, shops, restaurants, poisoning the economy not only of Italy but of many other countries in the world.” says Roberto di Bella. It also thrives in the construction industry, seizing European funds and even funeral director contracts amid a pandemic.

Renowned for its cruelty

The ‘Ndrangheta, prosecutor Gratteri emphasizes, “is much feared for its ferocity, its cruelty.” His crimes regularly make headlines in Italy. At the beginning of January, the Italian press recounted the tragic fate of Maria Chindamo, a 42-year-old businesswoman, murdered in 2016 for having refused to cede her land to a neighbor linked to a mafia clan. According to a repentant, his body was then “given as food to pigs” in an attempt to destroy it.

The alleged perpetrator, Salvatore Ascone, closely linked to the “Mancuso” clan, was detained in 2019 as part of the investigation but released. The ‘Ndrangheta, as well as other mafia groups, have also been charged with dozens of child deaths since the 1950s.

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