December 21, 2015 / 4:38 PM / 2 years ago

Soccer star among 140 to stand trial in Italy for mafia links

Juventus' Vincenzo Iaquinta celebrates scoring against Manchester City during their Europa League soccer match at the City of Manchester stadium in Manchester, northern England September 30, 2010.Nigel Roddis

BOLOGNA, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian court on Monday ordered more than 140 people to stand trial for alleged mafia links, including a member of Italy's victorious team in the 2006 soccer World Cup.

The court in the northern city of Bologna indicted the defendants on charges of aiding, or being members of, the 'Ndrangheta, Italy's most powerful organized crime network.

The 'Ndrangheta, based in Calabria in the southwestern tip of the Italian mainland, has grown steadily in the last 10 years due to its role in smuggling cocaine and other drugs into Europe from South America.

Vincenzo Iaquinta, a former striker for Juventus and Italy who comes from Calabria, was indicted for illegal possession of firearms, aggravated by intention to help the 'Ndrangheta.

His father Giuseppe, a businessman, was indicted on the more serious charge of mafia association, said Carlo Taormina, the lawyer for both of them.

Most of the defendants are accused of involvement in the 'Ndrangheta's activities in the Emilia-Romagna region around Bologna. The first hearing in the trial will be on March 23, 2016, Taormina said.

Reporting By Valentina Accardo, writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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