ROME – In the heart of Calabria, one of Italy’s wildest and most beautiful southern regions, one of the biggest mafia trials Italy has ever seen start on Wednesday in a transformed call center into a huge courtroom, which authorities say can hold 1,000 mobsters, lawyers, and socially distant turners and safe enough to prevent the bombings.
Cages line the perimeter of the room for some of the 355 defendants who are linked to the ‘Ndrangheta’ crime syndicate, which experts say is now the most powerful in the world with the financial might of Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined, and annual sales of $ 64 billion, primarily in intercontinental drug sales. Massive screens hang from the ceilings where those too dangerous to be taken from prison will testify via video link in what looks like a massive Zoom meeting. Outside the building, two security checks are in place as well as a COVID test point to try to prevent this mega-test from turning into a mass-market event.
The trial is expected to last at least two years and includes 42 mafia women, who face charges of murder, extortion, money laundering, and arms and drug trafficking. One of the suspected women is charged with murder for attempting to carry out a vendetta on behalf of her imprisoned brother – although she was upset when the victim took a cyanide pill – as is common among Mafiosi who use suicide to deprive their assassins of success. hit. Another of the suspicious women is accused of bringing weapons to Bulgaria and of having stored a cache in her daughter’s closet which contained semi-automatic weapons and hand grenades. Three are charged with money laundering, four are charged with extortion and the others are charged with a myriad of crimes, including complicit in murder, drug trafficking and harboring fugitives.
Women have long occupied a complex role in Italian mafia organizations – both incapable of officially joining all-male groups, but often wielding immense power nonetheless. They are tasked with raising children to grow up outside the law and often take over while their husbands, fathers or brothers are incarcerated. The fact that 42 women are on trial (and a dozen other plea deals) is a testament to the seriousness with which the Italian justice system is finally taking women suspected of organized crime. For decades, women have been allowed to participate in Mafia trials, seen as either on the outskirts or just not smart enough to be involved, allowing them to fly under the radar. Other defendants include those using the nicknames The Uncle, The Wolf, Fatty, Sweetie, Blondie, Little Goat and The Wringer, who are said to have been named after his preferred method of torture against those who believe him or his family.
The lawsuit is the result of an injection surgery in 2019 in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Bulgaria called Rinasciata Scott or Rebirth Scott, so named in honor of U.S. DEA agent and former Marine Sieben William Scott, who was a close friend and collaborator of trial chief prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who credits his friend with linking the points between the Colombian cartels and the Calabrian mafia Ndrangheta. Scott died in a traffic accident several years ago and Gratteri paid tribute to his American friend whom he met in Rome while working inside the United States Embassy, naming the investigation according to him.
The trial centers on the testimony of Emanuele Mancuso, one of the most prolific setbacks the ‘Ndrangheta has ever produced. Luni Mancuso’s son, known as “The Engineer,” Emanuele started working with Gratteri in 2016 and was almost killed for his betrayal by his mother Giovannina del Vecchio and his aunt Rosaria Del Vecchio, who believed the to have raised better than to be a good person.
When he started collaborating with Gratteri, his partner Nensy Chimirri was on the verge of giving birth to their daughter, who has since been used as a kind of bargaining chip to try to get him to give up his testimony. Chimirri wrote a letter to her lover promising to forgive him. “You can come back, I’ll be there for you like everyone else,” she wrote, enclosing a photo of their newborn daughter in the arms of Giuseppe, Emanuele’s brother. It was a threat that if he didn’t come back, he would never see the girl again.
Italian police carried out a dangerous operation to try to involve Chimirri in the witness protection program and save her daughter, but she refused. The child was abducted and is living with foster care, but since Chimirri still has visitation rights, she is still in the grip of the infamous Mancuso wing of the ‘Ndrangheta. “I decided to collaborate with justice near his birth in the hope of offering him a different future, far from the social and criminal context of my belonging,” Mancuso wrote in a letter last week after a juvenile court did not prohibit visitation. from the mother. “I intend to express my state of frustration and concern for the fate of my daughter, who is only 30 months old, because, despite the notorious events related to the pressures I have been subjected to for the choice that I did, she, although submitted to the special protection program, in reality, thanks to the availability of her mother, maintains contact with the “Ndrangheta circles”. “
Authorities know the child could easily be kidnapped and killed for the testimony Mancuso is about to give against his family. “There can be no honor in such an event, there can be no value, there can be no humanity to threaten such a thing,” Gratteri said recently of the undue pressure on his star witness. “There is no honor in the ‘Ndrangheta.”
If this is not the first maxi-trial against the ‘Ndrangheta, it is the biggest. In 2003, more than 200 union members were convicted of crimes including murder, extortion, and drug and arms trafficking in a trial that legitimized the ‘Ndrangheta as a cohesive organized group in circles. anti-mafia. The ongoing trial has been compared to the massive trial against Sicilian Cosa Nostra in the 1980s in which 338 people were found guilty and sentenced to a total of 2,665 years in prison, which was the first time that an organization of Mafia type was tried on a large scale. with hundreds of defendants linked by a criminal association. This trial ultimately led to the assassination of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the two anti-Mafia prosecutors who conducted the hearings.
Barbie Latza Nadeau is the author of an upcoming book titled Godmothers on Women in Organized Crime Syndicates in Italy which will be published in 2021 by Penguin Random House.
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