Monday saw the conclusion of a nearly three-year trial against Calabria’s infamous ‘Ndrangheta mafia, as an Italian court delivered convictions to over 200 mobsters and their white-collar allies.
Defendants incarcerated in prisons across the country watched via videolink as the president of the court in southern Vibo Valentia, Brigida Cavasino, spent over an hour and a half reading out the names of the guilty and their sentences, which ranged from a few months to 30 years.
Prosecutors had sought sentences totaling close to 5,000 years for 322 accused mafia members operating in the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia and their white-collar collaborators, who have held a virtual stranglehold over the local population.
The court, after a trial lasting two years and nine months, issued sentences totaling just about half of the requested time, convicting 207 defendants on Monday, among them four seasoned members of the ‘Ndrangheta, each sentenced to 30 years in jail.
16 individuals who prosecutors had recommended be acquitted were among the 131 defendants acquitted by the three-judge panel.
Highlighting the ‘Ndrangheta’s strong connections with the influential, one of the trial’s most high-profile defendants was 70-year-old former parliamentarian and defense lawyer Giancarlo Pittelli, who was accused of acting as a facilitator for the mafia.
The court handed him an 11-year sentence, which was below the 17 years sought by prosecutors.
A few dozen family members sat at the rear of the long, narrow courtroom, peering at the television screens for a glimpse of their incarcerated loved ones, and occasionally cheering with joy over a light sentence.
Concluding Italy’s largest mafia trial in decades, the verdicts, which can be appealed twice, represent the most significant blow to date against one of the world’s most powerful organized crime syndicates, despite Monday’s acquittals.
The verdict, according to Giuseppe Borrello, the local representative for anti-mafia association Libera, showed that the prosecutors’ efforts were effective, even if they did not lead to convictions for all suspects.
‘The road is still long but it’s been charted out, that’s the most important thing,’ Borrello told AFP.
‘The strong message it (the verdict) sends is that the sense of impunity that has very often been felt in our territory is gone.’