Over 200 gang members have been sentenced to a total of more than 2,200 years in prison after one of the biggest mafia trials in Italian history.
More than 300 defendants have been on trial since January 2021, accused of being members of the powerful crime group, ‘Ndrangheta.
Founded in the 18th century in Calabria, it has grown to become one of the world’s most powerful, extensive and richest criminal organisations.
‘Ndrangheta is the only mafia to be active in every continent, is said to control 80% of Europe’s cocaine trade, and has an estimated annual turnover of £52bn.
The three-year trial involved mafiosi, entrepreneurs and politicians, and included charges of murder, corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion.
Since retiring on 16 October to consider their verdicts, the three judges had to live in a safe house under police protection.
Some 67 defendants who were part of the original indictment have already been found guilty after opting for a speedy trial.
More than 80 defendants were found not guilty, according to a list of verdicts on the Corriere Della Calabria news site.
However, sentences of up to 30 years have been handed down for the more than 200 people convicted.
Special forces and elite units hit the ‘Ndrangheta in December 2019, with around 3,000 officers raiding 12 Italian regions and also making arrests in Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria.
Millions of euros worth of properties and cash were seized, while 300 suspects were detained.
The 2019 operation was named Rinascita-Scott, referring to the rebirth of the region – ‘rinascita’ in Italian – and to US special agent Scott W Sieben, who helped Italian police discover links between Colombia’s cartels and the ‘Ndrangheta.
The chief prosecutor who led the huge investigation was Nicola Gratteri, who organised the building of a bunker courtroom to hold the trial.
Mr Gratteri, who is Italy’s most famous anti-mafia prosecutor, has been living under police protection for 34 years.
At the start of the hearing, he told Sky News he would not be intimidated by the many death threats and assassination plots against him.
In August, while Sky News was given rare access to Italy’s hidden mafia war, Mr Gratteri said that if he were to die tomorrow, “it wouldn’t be a problem for me”.
“To live a hundred years as a coward is meaningless,” he said. “Instead, I have lived as a man.”
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently said Italy now has the most effective tactics in fighting organised crime.
“We have an extremely changeable enemy and the fight against the mafia is a cornerstone of this government,” she said.