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One of the biggest mafia trials ever kicks off in Italy as 350 'Ndrangheta suspects face justice

350 face justice in huge Italian mafia trial
350 face justice in huge Italian mafia trial 01:31

Rome — One of Italy's biggest ever mafia trials in history kicked off Wednesday in southern Italy. Hundreds of defendants are accused of working for a heinous criminal enterprise with tentacles reaching so far around the world, it reportedly makes more money selling drugs than McDonald's does selling burgers.

If you've never heard of the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate, that might have to do with just how hard the name is to pronounce. (Roughly: DRAHN-get-ah)

The 'Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria — to "toe" of Italy's "boot" on a map — from which it coordinates a global drug trafficking network that generates tens of billions of euros ever year, mostly from cocaine. 

A Carabinieri police officer stands guard in a special courtroom, January 13, 2021, prior to the opening of the 'Rinascita-Scott' maxi-trial in which more than 350 alleged members of Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate and their associates go on trial in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. GIANLUCA CHININEA/AFP/Getty

There are more than 350 suspects in this case, among them politicians and other officials accused of being 'Ndrangheta members. About 900 witnesses will offer testimony against them, and about 400 lawyers are also involved in the massive trial, which will be made even more complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities had to construct a high-security, high-capacity courtroom with space for 1,000 people – socially distanced – just for the trial. Still, thanks to COVID-19 many of the defendants will appear via video link from jail. 

Pope Francis takes on the mob 02:20

Italian officials are taking concerns for both health and security very seriously. The last time it held a so-called "maxi-trial" even comparable to this was back in the 90s, against Sicily's Cosa Nostra Mafia. 

Shortly thereafter, its two main judges were both assassinated. 

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