For years, the Italian public prosecutor Nicola Gratteri has taken on the Italian mafia – now as chief prosecutor in the Ndrangheta trial.
ROME taz | Public prosecutor Nicola Gratteri will appear as chief prosecutor this Wednesday at the opening of the mega-mafia trial, which sees 355 members of the ‘Ndrangheta and their accomplices from politics and business in the dock in Lamezia Terme, Calabria.
Gratteri is dealing with enemies he knows very well. The 62-year-old grew up in the village of Gerace not far from Locri – one of the mafia strongholds of Calabria. He himself reports that as a child he went to school with the offspring of mafia families and then played hide-and-seek with them in his free time.
He also reports that when he hitchhiked to the high school in Locri he saw corpses by the roadside, victims of the mafia killers, and that he made the decision later to do his part to put an end to criminal violence.
He learned a sense of justice at home, he says, as the son of a small truck owner who later opened a grocery store and who slaughtered two pigs every year: one for the family and one for the poor in the village.
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Immediately after completing his law degree, he became a public prosecutor. The mafiosi he was investigating soon had him in their sights: Since 1989, Gratteri has been under police protection without interruption, today you would say in lockdown. “For years I have not been to the cinema once, not once in the football stadium, not once for a walk on the boulevard,” said the prosecutor.
Initially in the public prosecutor’s office in Reggio Calabria, Gratteri repeatedly pushes major proceedings against the clans, but soon he also deals with the networks that they have established in northern Italy and across the globe, which have made them the most powerful mafia in Italy today, which has the drug trade largely in its hands and which invests its billions in profits in Milan, Turin or Rome as well as in Duisburg or Erfurt.
Hundreds of Mafiosi are in custody as a result of his investigations, and Gratteri has also been noticed by politicians. Parliament’s anti-mafia committee appointed him as an advisor in 2014, and in the same year Matteo Renzi even wanted to appoint him minister of justice, but failed because of the veto of President Giorgio Napolitano, who did not want a public prosecutor in this post.
But Gratteri continues to pursue a career in the judiciary, rising to the position of Chief Public Prosecutor in Catanzaro in Calabria in 2016. There he pushes, among other things, the investigation against the powerful Mancuso clan from Vibo Valentia, which plays a major role in the international cocaine trade. In December 2019 there were hundreds of arrests, in addition to the Mafiosi, lawyers who are said to have taken care of their money laundering, municipal employees, but also an ex-MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia were met. They are all on trial in the Maxi trial that is now beginning, face to face with their prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who still lives in his home village of Gerace today.