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Europe
Italian mafia 'sunk toxic waste'
Criminal organisation alleged to have dumped radioactive material off Calabrian coast.
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2009 10:13 GMT
Silvestro Greco, the head of Calabria's environment agency, said the ships could contain dangerous toxins

Italian authorities have begun investigating a shipwreck allegedly containing toxic waste off the Calabrian coast, after claims it was deliberately sunk by the mafia.

A former member of the criminal organisation says the vessel and its cargo were blown up in a lucrative radioactive disposal scheme and that the ship contained "nuclear" material.

Investigators have obtained pictures from a robot submarine with a video camera taken at the scene and are now examining samples taken from the wreck.

The Cunsky ship may be one of 32 vessels with toxic material on the Italian seabed, prosecutors said.

Mafia informant

Officials said Francesco Fonti, a former member of Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime group, had disclosed the location of the ship to authorities.

Fonti said he used explosives to sink the vessel, along with two others.

Silvestro Greco, the head of Calabria's environment agency, said: "If the turncoat who admits sinking this ship also says that he personally has sunk another two ships, even without taking into account other investigations that suggest more than 20 ships were sunk, the government must find these other two ships."

Al Jazeera's Claudio Lavanga said investigators believe the mafia began sinking ships when the European Union introduced wider restrictions on toxic waste disposal.

Lavanga said the restrictions have made the process of waste disposal expensive and lengthy.

Sebastiano Venneri, vice president of the environmental group Legambiente, said former members of the 'Ndrangheta mafia have said that the crime syndicate had been paid to sink ships with radioactive material for the last 20 years.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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