ROME—Deep 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 kicked off Wednesday inside a call center converted into a massive courtroom, which authorities say can hold 1,000 mobsters, lawyers and turncoats socially distanced and secure enough to prevent bomb attacks.
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 power of Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined, and an annual turnover of $64 billion, mostly in intercontinental drug sales. Massive screens hang from the ceilings where those too dangerous to be taken from jail will testify by video-link in what looks like a massive mob Zoom meeting. Outside the building, two security checks are in place as well as a COVID testing spot to try and prevent this mega-trial turning into a superspreader event.
The trial is expected to last at least two years and includes 42 mafia women, who are facing charges of murder, extortion, money laundering and arms and drug trafficking. One of the women suspects is charged with murder for attempting to carry out a vendetta on behalf of her incarcerated brother— although she was thwarted when the victim took a cyanide pill—as is common among mafiosi who use suicide to deprive their assassins of a successful hit. Another of the female suspects is charged with running guns to Bulgaria and storing a cache in her daughter’s closet that included semi-automatic weapons and hand grenades. Three are charged with money laundering, four are charged with extortion and the rest are charged with a myriad of crimes including accomplice to murder, drug running and harboring fugitives.
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