Saverio Razionale and Domenico Bonavota, two local mafia leaders in Calabria, are both sentenced to 30 years in prison.

A court in Italy has convicted more than 230 defendants at the end of one of the country’s largest mafia trials, targeting the ‘Ndrangheta criminal group in its heartland of the southern Calabria region.

More than 330 suspected gangsters and their alleged associates, including employees, had faced a range of charges including extortion, drug trafficking and theft in a trial that lasted nearly three years.

As the Italian news agency ANSA reported, the judges took just one hour and 40 minutes to read out their verdict on Monday. The most severe sentences were imposed on Saverio Razionale and Domenico Bonavota, two local Calabrian mafia leaders, who were both sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“Today’s verdict means that an entire province of Calabria has been freed from the top of the criminal group,” Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy’s most prominent judges and a former lead prosecutor in the case, told Reuters.

Among those convicted was Giancarlo Pittelli, a lawyer and former politician from the Forza Italia party – a member of the national governing coalition – who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for collusion with the mafia and leaking information.

Gratteri, who changed his job two months ago to become chief prosecutor in Naples, said confirming the link between the ‘Ndrangheta and a network of experts was a central aspect of the verdict.

Giorgio Naselli, a former local police chief, was sentenced to two years and six months.

However, in several cases the prosecution was unable to obtain as high sentences as it had sought, and around 100 of the defendants were acquitted.

Both the defense and the prosecution can appeal against Monday’s first-instance ruling.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered by prosecutors to be the most powerful mafia group in Italy, significantly dwarfing the more famous Cosa Nostra gang in Sicily with its influence stretching across Europe and beyond.

The trial took place in a converted call center in the Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme, where metal cages were set up for the defendants.

The last time Italy tried hundreds of suspected Mafiosi at the same time was in Palermo in 1986, in a case that was a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra and marked the beginning of the group’s sharp decline.

This Sicilian trial had a major impact as it targeted numerous mafia families.

The trial in Calabria focused primarily on just one group – the Mancuso clan from Vibo Valentia province – and left much of the ‘Ndrangheta’s top brass untouched.

Anna Sergi, a professor of criminology at the University of Essex, said the verdict confirms prosecutors’ reading of the ‘Ndrangheta structure in Vibo Valentia.

“Now it has its own peculiarity,” she said, emphasizing that under Italian law such first-instance rulings can be appealed twice before they become final.

Another 70 defendants in the original trial were found guilty in November 2021 after opting for an accelerated trial in exchange for a sentence reduction.

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