Mafia italienne et nucléaire...

7) Turncoat claims expertise in scuttling vessels  -  Italian police close in on ‘toxic’ shipwreck  -  South furious at Rome’s slow response
Turncoat claims expertise in scuttling vessels
By Guy Dinmore
Published: October 20 2009

     Speaking to the Financial Times on Tuesday in a secret location in northern Italy where he is under house arrest serving a 50-year sentence, Francesco Fonti recounted how he sank three ships in quick succession.
     While his assertions have not been proved, Mr Fonti claims he worked for the ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian Mafia, for 26 years, specialising in drug trafficking cocaine and heroin arms trafficking, mainly in Africa and South America, and the disposal, on land and sea, of toxic waste, sometimes nuclear. Over the years he became a clan boss, high in the Mafia hierarchy.
     Mr Fonti, 61, a slight figure, educated and articulate, started collaborating with the authorities in 1994 in an effort to get out of jail.
     The Cunski, he recalled, he sank with dynamite in the bows that he transported to the ship in a motorboat.
     The contract involved what he called a network of companies in central Europe that collected the waste from industrialists and governments, working with the co-operation of Italian and other national secret services.
     "The traffic still goes on. Where there is money the trafficking in waste never ends. It is like drugs. There are always requests for disposal," he said. Multinational companies that produce goods illegally have to dispose of them illegally, he said.
     Mr Fonti does not expect to live long. He has had a heart operation, has cancer and fears he could be killed at any moment.
Italian police close in on "toxic" shipwreck

By Guy Dinmore and Eleonora de Sabata in Rome and in Reggio Calabria
Published: October 20 2009

     A mission was launched on Tuesday off the Italian coast to investigate what anti-Mafia investigators have long suspected was a conspiracy between organised crime, industrialists and government agencies to dump nuclear and other toxic waste in the Mediterranean and off Africa.
     An Italian marine survey ship under police protection started tests 12 miles off Calabria's coast on the wreck of a cargo ship 500 metres below.
     According to Francesco Fonti, a Mafia turncoat, the ship was scuttled in 1992 carrying 120 barrels of toxic materials much of it possibly radioactive. The ship, identified by Mr Fonti as the Cunski, is one of three vessels carrying toxic cargoes he says he sank as a service provided by the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian Mafia.
     Over two decades Italian prosecutors have looked into more than 30 such suspicious deep-water sinkings. They suspect that Italian and foreign industrialists h ave acted in league with the Mafia, and possibly government agencies, to use the Mediterranean as a dumping ground. Vessels sank in fair weather had suspicious cargo, sent no mayday or the crew vanished. None had been located, until now.
     Fishermen and political leaders in Calabria, alarmed at the possible environmental disaster, are protesting. Local mayors rallied in Rome on Tuesday to press the government to act quickly. Brussels has also added its voice. A letter sent last month by Stavros Dimas, European environment commissioner, seeking clarification from Italy, has so far gone unanswered.
     The discovery of nuclear waste on the Cunski or other ships could raise uncomfortable issues for Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government, which is relaunching Italy nuclear power industry after a 22-year moratorium.
     Now, the marine survey ship Mare Oceano is to use sonars to map and hopefully identify the ship, and test for radioactivity, before efforts are made to salvage the barrels. An Italian coastguard vessel has also searched for another wreck of a ship that Mr Fonti claims was scuttled off the central port of Livorno with toxic waste on board.
     The Mafia's involvement in illegal waste disposal on land, working for industrialists and local officials, is well documented.
     The Mafia informant's claims about involvement in sea dumping first made headlines in 2005, but progress was slow in pursuing them. Last month an expedition located what appears to be the Cunski, using Mr Fonti's directions.
     Over the years, magistrates have been aided by lists of suspicious sinkings provided by Lloyd's of London in connection with suspect insurance claims, as well as persistent probing by environmental groups.
     Francesco Neri, a Calabrian prosecutor who began investigating the "poison ships" mystery in the 1990s, says Mr Fonti has confirmed his suspicions.
     "It was like investigating a murder without having the corpse," he says, referring to their failure to pinpoint the missing ships, starting with the Rigel, which a court ruled was scuttled in 1987. Mr Neri recalls years of digging, threats, lack of funding and the strange death of his main investigator one of several deaths said to be linked to the affair.
     In December 1995, the investigator, Natale de Grazia, a young coastguard captain, died suddenly on a mission to the port of La Spezia. The official cause of death was heart att ack, but colleagues suspect that he was poisoned.
      Following the apparent find of the Cunski, a new inquiry has been launched by Calabria's anti-Mafia directorate. (The exact identity of the ship is unclear some disputed records show a ship named Cunski was scrapped years later.)
     Attention is also being refocused on the case of a ship called Rosso which ran aground in rough weather near Amantea in Calabria in 1990, after what officials claimed was a botched attempt to scuttle it. Its cargo was removed and disposed of on land. Years later, doctors spotted a high incidence of local cancers.
     Toxic contaminants and traces of radioactive caesium 137 were found in a nearby quarry used as an illegal dump. Investigating magistrates suspect a link with the Rosso.
     Massimo Scalia, professor of physics at Rome's La Sapienza university who led a parliamentary commission on illegal dumping in the 1990s, thinks the oceans were a nat ural extension for the Mafia.

     "I'm sure they disposed of toxic and radioactive waste by sinking these ships," he said. "But so far it is a theory a theory in which I believe strongly but couldn't find proof. That's what I have been asking all these years: let's find a ship and see what it carried."
     The commission and investigators repeatedly appealed for more government funding, but earlier inquiries were stopped.
     Claims by Mr Fonti of involvement of Italian and foreign intelligence agencies and government officials in the trade of toxic and radioactive products have fuelled suspicions that some institutions may not have wanted to shed light on what lies on the seabed.
     Investigators and parliamentarians have raised worrying questions about the source of the suspected nuclear material and who ordered its disposal.
     In 2005, Mr Fonti told L'Espresso magazine that the Cunski carried radioactive waste from Norway. Ships, he said, were also sunk off Kenya, Somalia and west Africa. He also spoke of disposing waste for Italian, German, Swiss and Russian chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
     Italian authorities have rejected his claim to have disposed of 40 lorry loads of material delivered to him at the Rotondella facility run by Enea, Italy's nuclear authority.
     Four years ago, Nicola Maria Pace, a prosecutor, told parliamentarians of three accidents involving nuclear waste stored at Rotondella, the last in 1994. He spoke of Italy's "total submission" to US control over nuclear materials at Rotondella from 1954 to the 1970s, and how Iraqi scientists trained at Rotondella to use Italy's Cirene reactors, which Iraq had sought to acquire in the 1980s.
     In 2007, eight former senior Enea officials were placed under investigation over the handling of nuclear material. Italian media reported that the case was recently dropped.
     More broadly, the extent to which a foreign hand is suspected is hard to gauge. Several sessions of the parliamentary waste commission were held in private for reasons of secrecy. Its public conclusions noted "interferences and threats" against investigators, and were critical of Enea's management of nuclear waste.
     The commission's 1995 report spoke of the "possible existence of national and international trafficking in radioactive waste, managed by business and criminal lobbies, which are believed to operate also with the approval of institutional subjects belonging to countries and governments of the [European Union] and outside the EU".
     Prof Scalia is not alone in noting that Italy lacks a coherent nuclear waste policy and still has old waste held in "temporary" sites, some of it brought from the US decades ago.
     The environment ministry and Enea did not respond to questions for this article. Statements by Stefania Prestig iacomo, the environment minister, have created confusion. First, the initial plans to use the ministry's research vessel to survey the wreck was ditched. Then, parliament was told that a ship provided by Eni, the state-controlled energy group, was on its way from Cyprus.
     Finally, the ministry said last Friday that the Mare Oceano, provided by Geolab, a Naples-based marine survey company, would do the work instead, directed by anti-Mafia investigators.
South furious at Rome’s slow response
By Giulia Segreti in Rome
Published: October 20 2009

     Mayors from southern Italy converged on Rome on Tuesday to protest against what they complain is the central government's slow and inadequate response to the suspected dumping of toxic waste off their coastal towns.
     A delegation of 33 mayors and several councillors from the province of Cosenza staged a peaceful protest outside the cabinet's offices, demanding a meeting with Silvio Berlusconi, the prime Minister, and Gianni Letta, his undersecretary. Ten members of parliament representing the region of Calabria joined them.
     "We are asking the government to speed up their actions. The prime minister and cabinet should declare a state of emergency for the whole of the Calabria region. The economic fabric of the area is on its knees the fishermen, restaurants, hotels and shops," said Giuseppe Aieta, mayor of Cetraro.
     A marine survey ship was some 12 miles off Cetraro on Tuesday, star ting to investigate what a mafia turncoat claims is the wreck of a ship he sank in 1992 with toxic waste, possibly nuclear material, in its hold. The Mare Oceano plans to carry out an initial survey on the wreck, in 500 metres of water, before officials decide how to salvage it.
     Last week a committee of the mayors wrote to parliament and the centre-right government.
     "The programmed works of verification are limited in their effectiveness... This situation feeds collective uncertainty... hence we ask the national government to intervene and remove definitely from territorial waters the wreck and, in a short space of time, take away any toxic element that might be harmful to public health," they said.
     "According to the environment ministries protocols 45 or more days are needed to carry out the investigations. What worries us is that the attention might drop and the curtains on us might close. If this had happened in the North, they (the government) would have intervened in 24 hours", said Mr Aieta.
Rosa Calipari, an opposition Democratic Party MP from Calabria, has presented a parliamentary bill calling for an ad hoc commission that would co-ordinate the efforts of all the authorities involved in the investigations.
      "When will this country have the courage of dealing with the truth? If action is fragmented the truth will be sunk again," said Mrs Calipari.
     Mr Berlusconi has not commented on the issue, despite growing coverage in the media. Ministers have promised to act promptly, but confusing statements by the environment ministry have not calmed nerves.
     Roberto Menia, an environment ministry official, was due to visit Cetraro town hall to meet all local administrators. Left-wing trade unions officials and local authorities plan to organise a demonstration in the town of Amantea on Saturday. Its residents have been alarmed by reports that doctors h ave found a high incidence of cancer in the area that prosecutors suspect may have been caused by the dumping of nuclear waste on shore from a ship that ran aground there in 1990.