[ RadSafe ] Shipwreck may hold radioactive waste sunk by mafia off Italian coast
ryoss at mcw.edu
Wed Sep 16 15:08:53 CDT 2009
Italian ministers and officials were today holding urgent consultations following the discovery of an unmarked wreck that prosecutors believe was used by the mafia to sink radioactive waste.
As a ship carrying equipment for detecting marine pollution headed for the site of the sunken vessel, an investigator said up to 41 others may have been used to dump toxic and nuclear material on the seabed.
A former top mobster said he had personally shipped other waste to Somalia and that the traffic could have led to the death of a well-known Italian reporter.
On Saturday a robot operating 480 metres below sea level sent back murky images of a wreck detected several months earlier by environmental officials.
Among other things, they showed two crushed drums protruding from the bows, which appeared to have been blown out in an explosion.
The image and the position of the ship - 11 miles off the coast at Cetraro in south-western Italy - coincided exactly with an account given to prosecutors three years ago by Francesco Fonti, a former boss of the 'Ndrangheta, the mafia of Calabria. Fonti said he and others had used explosives acquired in Holland to sink three vessels in the Mediterranean.
The one off Cetraro was carrying nuclear waste from Norway, he said. His clan had received the equivalent of almost £100,000 for disposing of it.
A prosecutor involved in two investigations in the 1990s said last weekend's discovery had "all the appearances of being a confirmation" that organised criminals had dumped waste at sea.
Nicola Pace, now chief prosecutor at Brescia, near Milan, said the inquiries had unearthed evidence of the "deliberate sinking of 42 ships with cargoes of waste, including radioactive waste", but were frustrated by an absence of tangible proof.
Bruno Giordano, the prosecutor who ordered the robot search, said: "No one can any longer maintain the ships aren't there."
But he added that he would await proof that the wreck was that of the MV Kunski, the vessel identified by Fonti.
Marine experts said the sunken ship was about 330 feet long and appeared to have been constructed 40 or 50 years ago.
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