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CRIME

Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

After years of investigation and with hundreds of suspects, Italy's plucky anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri on Wednesday begins a major court battle against the country's powerful 'Ndrangheta clan.

Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy's battle against the mafia
talian anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri pictured during a television interview on January 11th. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
For Nicola Gratteri, the lead prosecutor in Italy's largest anti-mafia trial in more than 30 years, the fight against the mob has always been a personal issue.
 
“I have known the mafia since I was a child because I was hitchhiking to school and I often saw dead bodies on the road,” he told AFP ahead of the opening Wednesday of the landmark “maxi-trial”.
 
 
“I thought: when I grow up, I want to do something so that this won't happen again.”
 
More than 350 people are going on trial in Calabria, the heart of the feared 'Ndrangheta organised crime group, accused of everything from murder to drug trafficking, money laundering and mafia association.
 
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
A call centre in the town of Lamezia Terme in Calabria, Italy's poorest region, was specially converted to host the proceedings, which Gratteri expects to last one year but which many believe will stretch on for far longer.
 
The prosecutor grew up in Calabria, from where the 'Ndrangheta has extended its reach across all parts of the world, surpassing Sicily's Cosa Nostra as
Italy's most fearsome crime syndicate.
 
“I know the 'Ndrangheta well from inside, because when I was a child I was at school with the children of mafia bosses,” Gratteri said.
 
“The kids I played with then became mobsters and then became drug traffickers. So, that's why I'm familiar with the criminal philosophy, the way of thinking of the 'Ndrangheta members, and this helps in my work,” he added.
 
 
Decades under police protection
 
Gratteri said he felt “very confident” that his case would stand up in court, in what promises to be a long and complicated trial, with more than 900 witnesses just for the prosecution.
 
It focuses on the Mancuso, a clan based in the Vibo Valentia province, as well as on the politicians, lawyers, businessmen and others accused of enabling them.
 
Gratteri, 62, has spent three decades under close police protection, and is one of Italy's most high-profile anti-mafia figures.
 
He is often compared with Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the star prosecutors who worked on Italy's first mass trial against the mafia in the
1980s.
 
That trial, leading to hundreds of convictions, dealt a major blow to Sicily's Cosa Nostra, but cost Falcone and Borsellino their lives as mobsters
killed them both in retribution.
 
Gratteri said his anti-mafia efforts were being supported by the gradual breakdown of “omerta”, the mafia code of silence, among ordinary people.
 
“Over the last years we have gained a lot of credibility, a lot of trust. People have started to cooperate, the people are standing by us, are starting
to believe in us,” he said.
 
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
The 'Ndrangheta is the most powerful of Italy's mafia groups, and is itself comprised of numerous clans.

Through the years it has diversified, modernised and spread across Italy and the continent.

Italy's law enforcement still faces a struggle with mafia activity in a country where complicity can be found “at all levels of state administration,” Sergi said.

“The mafias are not external bodies to our otherwise well-functioning society, they are the mirror of our functioning,” added Gratteri, quoting the late judge Falcone.

“Italy is unable to admit it, it makes an enemy of it, forgetting that it (the mafia) is part of who we are,” he said.

“In each of us there is a little 'Ndranghetist',” said Gratteri.

By AFP's Alvise Armellini

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ROME

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.

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