Tunisia: Italian Waste Scandal - 16 People Arrested in Italy

Sixteen people were arrested and 11 precautionary measures were taken on Thursday morning in Italy as part of an operation led by the Judicial Police of the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate and the Environmental Protection and Energy Security Police Group concerning the illegal trafficking of waste between Italy and Tunisia.

The operation, dubbed "Dia et Noé", was carried out in cooperation with the military of the competent provincial commands and at the request of the Potenza Court, against intermediaries, contractors, owners of waste treatment and recovery companies and public officials involved in the waste management sector, as reported by the Italian press agency "NOVA" and local media.

The waste was originally plastic waste shipped by an Italian company between May and June 2020 to be recycled in Tunisia by a Tunisian export company. However, most of the waste turned out to be household waste, and the transaction was a flagrant violation of several international treaties on waste trade.

The people arrested in Italy are suspected of crimes involving organised activity for the purpose of illegal waste trafficking, fictitious registration of assets, illegal waste management and construction of illegal landfills, as well as public supply fraud.

"The investigation coordinated by the National Anti-Mafia Directorate and carried out by police officers from the Ecological Unit in Salerno and Potenza (two Italian cities), has uncovered major waste transfer operations abroad, in a worrying scenario of cross-border trafficking that has escaped control and caused damage to the environment and human health," said a press release from the Anti-Mafia Investigations Directorate of the Italian Prosecutor's Office.

"The latter are alleged to have acted with the complicity of intermediaries, including foreign intermediaries, organising the transfer of waste abroad to persons who are totally incapable of properly treating, recovering and disposing of it, and therefore probably destined to be incinerated (as happened) or illegally abandoned/buried in Africa, thus contributing to the uncontrolled disposal of waste from industrialised countries on the African continent".

The case stems from a one-year contract for the management of a total of 120,000 tonnes of waste bearing the European Waste Catalogue Code, concluded on 30 September 2019 between the representative of the Tunisian company "SOREPLAST Suarl", as a waste reception, recovery and disposal plant located in the city of Sousse (Tunisia), and the legal representative of the company "SVILUPPO RESORSE AMBIENTALI Srl", as a waste producer in the plant located in Polla (SA).

"A particular role in the overall investigation appears to have been played by the intermediation companies ECO MANAGEMENT spa of Soverato (CZ) and GC Service based in Tunisia", the same source said.

"Overall, the investigative activity (...) has made it possible to lay provisional charges, including illegal cross-border trafficking of waste in Tunisia and fraud on the part of the directors of the company SRA srL.

Also implicated in the investigation are two officials from the Campania Region, one of whom has been subjected to the coercive measure of house arrest.

As part of the same investigation, measures have also been taken to seize the assets of the companies involved to the tune of one million euros, according to the Italian media.

In Tunisia, the Italian waste affair caused an outcry and led to the dismissal of former Minister of Local Affairs and the Environment, Mustapha Aroui,

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