An Italian judge has found 70 defendants guilty in a trial involving one of the most powerful mafia groups in the country.

The case involves the ‘Ndrangheta organised crime group, which is based in Calabria in southern Italy.

Prosecutors consider the clan to be the most powerful mafia group in Italy, eclipsing the more famous Cosa Nostra gang in Sicily.

The fast-track trial was held over the weekend and involved 91 defendants and allowed those convicted to have their sentences reduced by a third.

Some of those shown by prosecutors to be key ‘Ndrangheta members were handed jail sentences of up to 20 years.

Chief prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said the first sentencing provided a basis for the wider proceedings involving a further 300 suspects, which started in January in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme.

The mobsters face charges including extortion, drug trafficking and theft.

“We continue our work with serenity and the firmness needed for such an important trial,” said Mr Gratteri, one of the country’s most respected anti-mafia magistrates.

He added that most of the 19 people acquitted in the trial were marginal suspects.

The last time Italy tried hundreds of alleged mafiosi simultaneously was in 1986 in the Sicilian city of Palermo, a case which represented a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra and marked the beginning of the group’s sharp decline.

The Calabrian trial involves a large number of white-collar workers and does not target the top hierarchies of the ‘Ndrangheta clans in the way the Palermo case did.

A courtroom was built on an industrial park in Lamezia Terme to accommodate the trial, including cages in which to hold defendants, amid ongoing tight security.

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