Lamezia, Terme is a small town in the region of Calabria, Italy. From the outside, it appears as a quiet southern town with little happening. On the inside, it’s the home base to the most powerful criminal organization worldwide. The ‘Ndrangheta mafia came to be in the late 18th century and has accumulated tremendous wealth. They have surpassed McDonalds and Deutsche Bank combined. The ‘Ndrangheta is a hushed name across Italy. Most individuals wouldn’t dare speak out against them, but one man continues to do so.
Nicola Gratteri is a renowned magistrate and lead prosecutor in the anti-mafia trial against the ‘Ndrangheta. He’s lived under protection for almost 30 years, and yet, his life is still always in danger. “The risk is high,” said Gratteri. “Every now and then I think to myself that today I could die or there could be a car bomb just outside my door. However, I’ve thought about my death many times. It’s useful to think about death because it helps to control the fear of it.”
He knows the risks of his job and does his best to make safe decisions. He chooses to stay away from populated areas. “I have not been to a movie theatre in 30 years, and I don’t go to restaurants. I don’t go out in the city, I don’t know this city and I’ve been here for 5 years,” he said.
In January of this year, more than 300 members were taken to court for trials that are still ongoing. Roughly 900 witnesses are testifying against the ‘Ndrangheta. One thing in particular caught Gratteri by surprise. “There is a huge intertwining between them; I didn’t know there were so many Freemasons involved,” he said.
Corrupt politicians, lawyers, businessmen, police, and people working in the public administration are also being prosecuted in the case. The ‘Ndrangheta’s power lies in their ability to create connections with powerful people.
The lengthy investigation began in 2016. December 19, 2020, Gratteri and his team were ready to close in on the ‘Ndrangheta. Their mission was almost compromised when the members discovered their plan. “We heard on one of our phone tappings that one of our most important defendants knew about our operation and when to arrest them. Great fear and great panic,” said Gratteri. “We had thousands of police ready for the siege on the 20th. I told them, we can’t do it on the 20th. We need to move to win and anticipate. We will keep saying it’s on the 20th then suddenly do the siege on the 19th. During this time it was already the 18th. They told me it’s not possible we cannot do it then. But I said we must do it, we must.”
A majority of the trial is expected to be finalized in July or possibly through the end of the summer. More complicated indictments could take longer and extend through next year. Gratteri’s hope is to have as many trials as possible and provide the Italian citizens with a mafia free land.