Legambiente has uncovered a terrifying story linked to the illegal disposal of toxic and radioactive waste at sea.

The story has returned to the fore over the last few weeks after the wreck of a ship was found carrying 120 barrels of suspected radioactive waste, sunk off the Calabrian coastline (Cetraro, Cs).

According to the prosecutors’ investigation and depositions collected by the Parliamentary Waste Commission, Italian authorities believe the ship found about 500 meters underwater may be the Cunski, one of the
vessels carrying toxic material that was allegedly sunk – between the 80s and 90s - by a mob in a international lucrative disposal racket.

In 1999, the attorney of Reggio Calabria, Antonio Catanese, claimed that “about 32 ships” had been sunk by the boss of this racket, being in complicity with the Reggio Calabria ‘Ndrangheta clans.

For 15 years, Legambiente has been reporting - through several detailed dossiers – a scary story, linked to the illegal disposal of toxic and radioactive waste at sea. In order to shine a light on the “lost ships” traffic, Legambiente promoted a “Committee for truth about toxic ships”, consisting of judges, journalists, politicians, the families of mafia victims and environmentalists.

Many courts have been investigating the issue over recent years: the attorney of Reggio Calabria, Paola and Catanzaro, in Calabria, the attorney Matera and Potenza in Basilicata; the attorney of Padoa in Veneto; the attorney of La Spezia in Liguria; the attorney of Bari in Puglia and Asti in Piemonte.

They traced several investigations all leading to the same criminal network, involved in the illegal disposal of toxic and radioactive waste at sea, along the Africa coast (Somalia, Libya etc) or in the Calabria and Basilicata mountains. All traces draw the same picture, which involves the same people, belonging to the managerial world, working as ship-owners, and being members of mafia clans or the Italian Intelligence Service, and representing foreigners’ Countries governments.

Several times legal proceedings have been stopped or even buried. For instance, the Captain Natale De Grazia mysteriously died on the 13th December 1995, while working on the JOLLY ROSSO sinking, in collaboration with the investigative team of the Reggio Calabria general attorney. Moreover, in March 1994, 2 Italian RAI journalists, Ilaria Alpi e Miran Hrovatin, were killed on their way back from Bosaso to Mogadiscio (Somalia).

Considering the circumstances, the inquiry conducted by the attorney of Paola could also be stuck due to the lack of human and economic resources, by the weakening of media attention, or by the allusion of subversive unreliable plots.

This case must be considered not as a marine pollution issue, only taking into account the environmental consequences. In fact, the toxic ships case is part of an illegal international traffic.

Photograph by Allison Finch/Marine Photobank

For more information, please read the full report by Antonio Pergolizzi, LEGAMBIENTE “Legal and Environment” Department coordinator.

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