When Italy Built An Entire Courthouse Just To Prosecute the Mafia

In 1987, the largest Mafia trial in history ended with guilty verdicts against 338 of 452 defendants accused of running a vast criminal empire financed largely through heroin trafficking to the United States. The Maxi Trial — as it became known — was viewed throughout Italy as a demonstration of the state’s willingness to strike back at a criminal organization that was steadily growing. The Government gambled by spending an estimated $90 million on the trial, including about $18 million to build the courtroom plus the cost of maintaining a small army of 3,500 policemen to protect the proceedings. In the end, the verdicts included 2,665 years of jail terms and nearly $10 million in fines.