For years, a ruthless mafia has ruled Calabria through intimidation and violence. Now prosecutors are taking them on, charging hundreds in one of the biggest trials in decades. But can the Italian state beat the country's most powerful mafia organisation?
The Calabrian mafia began local but over recent decades it's transformed into a powerful, multi-national criminal organisation, with an estimated turnover of 80 billion dollars a year.
Now Italian prosecutors are running a maxi-trial against members of a family they allege is one of the ‘Ndrangehta’s most powerful clans – the Mancusos. More than 300 members and associates of the Mancusos have been arrested. The charge sheet is sobering. It includes murder, extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering.
In this gripping crime saga, Fran Kelly travels to Vibo Valentia to tell the story of this historic attempt to curb the power of the ‘Ndrangheta. She gains access to the man leading the trial, Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri. He’s been investigating the Calabrian mafia for decades and has long been on the mafia’s kill list.
“There’s always tension. There’s always fear and you must always be careful”, he tells Kelly as he drives to court surrounded by his security motorcade. “You have to tame fear and talk to death.”
Kelly speaks with community members who now feel emboldened to speak out against the mafia. ‘The number of people turning on the mafia has increased’, says anti-mafia activist Giuseppe Borrello. ‘It’s new for Vibo Valentia.”
Gratteri’s actions have given hope to Sara Scarpulla, whose son was blown up in a car bomb organised by a member of the Mancuso family. Kelly also speaks to an anti-mafia prosecutor in Milan, Italy’s financial heart, where the ‘Ndrangheta has established a strong presence.
In Calabria, not everyone in the community is rallying behind Nicola Gratteri’s maxi-trial. “There’s vicious mudslinging aimed at the Prosecutor’s Office’, explains lawyer Giovanna Fronte. “That’s how the ‘Ndrangheta operates.”
For the people of Vibo Valentia, the maxi-trial has raised hopes of a new chapter in which the State regains control of a land long thought lost to organised crime. But can these prosecutions uproot the powerful networks of the ‘Ndrangheta?