Cover-Up in Calabria - Waste Disposal and the Mafia
The 'Ndrangheta is an organized crime group active in Calabria in southern Italy. One of its main sources of income is illegal toxic waste disposal. The discovery of 60 tons of hospital waste in 1989 was the first in a series of toxic waste scandals in the region. Meanwhile investigators are determined to destroy the corrupt network, in which companies elsewhere in Europe are also embroiled.
In early October 2017 the investigators in Reggio Calabria made the headlines again with their 'Metauros' operation. They set their sights on members of powerful 'Ndrangheta clans, high-ranking officials and important businesses. This operation wasn't about drugs or arms; it was about unfair competition, blackmail and corruption in the area of waste and sewage disposal - channels through which the Calabrian mafia bosses gain access to municipal administrations and political offices. European businesses such as French waste and water company Veolia are also affected by the investigations; until 2013 it ran the only waste-incineration plant in Calabria. Another company involved is MCT, the terminal operator at the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro - one of the most important shipping container hubs in the Mediterranean. MCT is part of the German-Italian Eurogate-Contship group. The 'Ndrangheta has been operating internationally for decades, making an estimated €50+ billion every year. In Germany investigators are aware of the presence of active mafiosi in all the major sectors of the economy who seem to largely go unchallenged. The Federal Ministry of the Interior gave the following response to a Green Party question in June 2017: "The government is aware of the phenomenon of illegal waste disposal committed by groups of Italian organized crime. No investigations have been conducted in Germany to date on this front." The illegal trade in waste is now a business area with a long history. Many see 1989 as the effective beginning of Calabrian toxic waste scandals. By chance 60 tons of hospital waste were discovered in Santa Domenica Talao in the province of Cosenza; it was to be burned illegally in a company furnace. One year later a freight vessel, the Rosso, was stranded near the coastal town of Amantea. Large amounts of a potentially highly dangerous cargo were allegedly buried in the nearby Oliva Valley. Analyses there recorded toxic substances such as caesium-137 and an above-average rate of cancer cases and deaths. More than a hundred ships carrying toxic and radioactive materials are said to have been buried in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless the authorities have taken little action so far, despite environmental activists ringing the alarm bells for more than 20 years, warning that Calabria is deteriorating into "Europe's landfill". Instead, investigators have been neutralized and trials have been delayed. A film team spent two years looking for answers in Italy and Germany, talking to Investigators, experts, activists, informants, former mafiosi and the victims of this deadly business.