UNITED KINGDOM. London: In Italy, the largest mafia trial in three decades is underway in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. About 900 witnesses are going to testify against more than 350 suspects, including mobsters, politicians and officials, all accused of being members of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the most powerful mafia’s groups in the world based in the southern Italian region of Calabria.
Now, the ‘Ndrangheta affairs in the City of London are set to come under scrutiny in the trial, The Guardian reports. According to the report, “Several defendants will be asked to respond to charges of money laundering over establishing companies in the UK with the alleged purpose of simulating legitimate economic activity.”
Nicola Gratteri the Italian prosecutor who oversees the trial, and who has been called a “dead man walking” by members of the mafia, told The Guardian, “Ndrangheta interests in the UK have figured prominently as clans have used the country as an investment and money-laundering base.”
Claudio Petrozziello, Italy’s financial police representative in the UK, told the Financial Times in 2020 that London is “one prime destination for ‘Ndrangheta cash”.
In a statement to the Financial Times, Petrozziello said, “Many people still think of the Mafia as drug dealers and extortionists, but there are many who are involved in moving money out of Calabria who would appear as sophisticated businessmen. They would blend in at an investment bank or a multinational corporation.”
As highlighted by The Guardian, the ‘Ndrangheta is believed to be one of the world’s richest and most powerful mafia organisations. According to a 2013 study by the Demoskopita Research Institute, ‘Ndrangheta financial strength is estimated to be more than that of Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined.
According to The Guardian, Italian magistrates and police officials are concerned that ‘Ndrangheta might try to take advantage of the UK’s exit from the EU. They pointed out that, if the police and juridical cooperation between the EU and the U.K. is weaker, the U.K. might be left alone to fight the organisation.
In July 2020, London Evening Standard reported that more than “£2 million of profits made by an Italian mafia gang and held in British bank accounts has been seized by City of London police.” The British investigators were helped by Europol and the Italian Guardia di Finanza.
However, The Guardian reports that Kevin Foster, the UK minister for future borders and immigration, in a statement said, “The agreement the UK reached with the EU delivers a comprehensive package of capabilities which ensures we can work with partners in Europe, including Italy, to tackle serious crime and terrorism – protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice.”
The trial began in January 2021 and is expected to last more than two years. The charges include murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.
The investigation that led to the trial was one of the biggest anti-mafia operations since 1986-92 when a maxi trial against Sicily based mafia Cosa Nostra took place and led to the assassination of judges Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino.
To accommodate the number of individuals involved in the trial, the high-security courtroom has been set in a call centre building.
The trial, codenames Rebirth (Rinascita in Italian), will put Emanuele Mancuso, son of the ‘Ndrangheta boss Luigi Mancuso, under the spotlight: he has been revealing the clan secrets after accepting police protection.