ROME (AP) — A court in southern Italy has convicted 70 defendants and acquitted 20 others in a trial that probed alleged links between the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate and local business figures, politicians and public officials.
The verdicts on Saturday came at the end of a fast-track trial that was an offshoot of another, ongoing trial in the Calabria region against more than 320 defendants, the Italian news agency ANSA reported from Lamezia Terme, a city in the “toe” of the boot-shaped peninsula.
Anti-Mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri expressed hope that the convictions would help strengthen his case in the main trial, which began earlier this year and is expected to run into 2022.
Prosecutors are eager for courts to deliver stiff blows to the ‘ndrangheta, the Calabria-based mob that has exploited tens of billions of dollars in cocaine revenues over the last decades to expand its influence across Europe and into other continents.
In the fast-track trial, held in the same specially constructed, high-security bunker courtroom that the main trial is using, defendants were guaranteed a one-third reduction of prison sentences in case of conviction.
Both trials explored the activities of a a dozen ‘ndrangheta clans, and especially one based in Vibo Valentia, Calabria. Prosecutors alleged the clans are linked to a convicted ’ndrangheta boss, Luigi Mancuso.
Prison sentences meted out in the fast-track trial ranged from 10 months to 20 years. Among those receiving the stiffest sentence was Pasquale Gallone, who prosecutors allege is a top lieutenant of Mancuso, ANSA said.
Among those acquitted on Saturday were an Italian lawyer and businessman who prosecutors had sought to portray as being in cahoots with the Mancuso crime clans.
The Lamezia Terme bunker is so vast that a score of video screens were attached to the ceiling so participants could view the proceedings. So-called “maxi-trials” aren’t infrequent in Italy. In 1986, in Palermo, in a similarly specially constructed bunker, 475 alleged members of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, were put on trial in a case that eventually yielded more than 300 convictions.