The octopus in our midst

During the past weeks we have been witnessing the exposure of a web of criminality which has infiltrated and infected all sectors of our society.  Revelations are being made public by instalments, as if a new edition of La Piovra (made in Malta) is being launched.

Information leaking from the Yorgen Fenech investigation as well as from other related investigations has revealed an intricate network which pervades practically all local institutions. Just like the octopus which with its eight long tentacles seeks to control all from far away.

We cannot say that we were not warned about this. At a point in time, it was stated that if Yorgen Fenech falls, all around him will collapse too. One instalment after the other we are realising the extent of control of the octopus.

One witness after another is confirming that the criminal gang under investigation was continuously aware of the different moves of the police investigators, in real time and with substantial notice. Those carrying out the assassination were even aware, with a three-week notice, as to when they were to be arrested. It was sufficient notice, we were told, that enabled them to plan where they would prefer the arrest to take place. They selected the potato shed at Marsa as their preference!

You would undoubtedly remember the first news instalments on Silvio Valletta, then still Deputy Commissioner of Police and in charge of the criminal investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was introduced as Uncle Silvio to Yorgen Fenech’s family. The two men (Silvio and Yorgen), one year after the assassination were on such close terms that on the 29 September 2018, they were together at Stamford Bridge enjoying a game of football: Chelsea playing against Liverpool.

It is no news that Yorgen Fenech has a sharp eye for strategic investment opportunities. He chose his portfolio with care. He invested carefully in Silvio Valletta. Silvio was after all also a member of the Board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Such focused investments yield handsome dividends. Most probably there is still much more that we do not know yet as to the dividends actually reaped.

These are the methods of the Mafia, a term which we normally use to describe organised crime which is so organised that it infiltrates all layers of the state. The Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Deputy Police Commissioner, one Cabinet Minister, and a number of others of a lower order were depicted in the testimony to date as being in the service of organised crime. This is as serious as it gets. Whether others higher up were also in the game is still not known for certain yet.

It is not known when the whole truth will be uncovered even though periodically we learn about an additional small bit .

This has been possible because successive governments have been allergic to good governance. The abundance of institutions set up throughout the years have been staffed with a multitude of weak men and women who have generally not been capable of standing up to the exercise of raw power. In the moment of truth, because they were weak, they gave way and allowed the octopus to move unhindered.

The published information, including confidential chats on WhatsApp, with senior officers of the Malta Gaming Authority, the Malta Financial Services Authority, the Planning Authority and others, is another worrying indicator as to how the authorities set up to defend society have been seriously undermined and compromised.

The road ahead is very difficult to navigate.  Undoubtedly, much more is yet unknown. The octopus is still in control.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 21st March 2021

Some reflections on the Mafia State

Reading through the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, it is amply clear to all as to what the inquiry should be aiming at.

The inquiry’s objective is to determine whether the machinery of government functioned as it should. Did it function in the public interest, or did it function in another manner, in the interest of the few, thereby creating a culture of impunity for the said few?

Some may justifiably argue that the machinery of government, in Malta, never functioned properly. It is further argued that the post 2013 administration made use of a defective machinery of government more efficiently than previous administrations, fine tuning and intensifying political controls in the process, as a result of which the stultification of the functions of the democratic state was accelerated.

The terms of reference agreed to in December 2019 speak of the development of a “de facto state of impunity” and seek to determine whether this could have been avoided through effective criminal law provisions, if such provisions exist.

Do we have a Mafia State? We would definitely have a Mafia State if the machinery of government is tied with organised crime to the extent that state officials become part of a criminal partnership or organisation.

The testimony heard so far in open session during the proceedings of the public inquiry reveals the reluctance of the authorities to investigate thereby paving the way for the development of a culture of impunity. Money-laundering investigations moved at snail’s pace until there was a change in leadership at the Economic Crimes Unit of the Malta Police Force. However, as yet we do not know what was revealed in the testimony behind closed doors. Matters could be considerably worse than what is known so far.

The revelations at the public inquiry must not be seen in isolation. They must be viewed in context of the testimony in the Magistrates Court relative to the criminal proceedings against those accused of carrying out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, or of masterminding it.

We have learnt that the alleged master-mind has pleaded with the police that he was carrying out the instructions of the Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, who categorically denied this. The definite truth is not known yet. So far, we are only sure that the assassination planners were too close to the political nerve centre: just like in a Mafia State. It is at the Office of the Prime Minister that the middleman was offered a government job, one which delivered pay for no work. Part payment for his endeavours as a middleman!

The Ministers testifying at the public inquiry were continuously seeking to pass the buck from the Cabinet to the kitchen cabinet. On the other hand, those forming part of this kitchen cabinet feigned ignorance of their role in circumventing the role of the real cabinet. This is the worrying state of play in which those having responsibility take a step backwards as a result of which their authority ends being wielded by those appointed in lieu of those elected. Collective responsibility has been thrown to the winds.

The latest revelations crown it all. Government’s thinly veiled threats in the past days to the members of the judiciary directing the public inquiry reveal a government in panic mode.

Robert Abela’s unease at this point in time is understandable. After all he was former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s legal advisor. How many skeletons in the cupboard is he aware of?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 December 2020

It-timbru tal-Mafja u l-‘Ndraghetta



L-ebda Awtorità f’Malta m’hi ser tgħidilna x’verifiki għamlet qabel ma ħarġet il-liċenżji. Dan jgħodd ukoll għal dawk il-liċenzji li ġew sospiżi dan l-aħħar wara l-ħruġ ta’ mandat t’arrest Ewropew għal sitt ċittadini taljani . Qed nirreferi għal dawk li kienu involuti fil-logħob tal-azzard elettroniku liċenzjat : iGaming jew remote gaming.

Li kieku l-Awtorità tagħti din l-informazzjoni ma tkunx serja għax tkun qed tikxef idejha!

Jibqa’ peró l-fatt li wara li ilna snin nisimgħu dwar kemm Malta hi l-iktar pajjiż serju f’dan il-qasam, tfaċċaw dawn il-każi. Ir-reazzjoni ġenerali hi li dawn qed jitfgħu dubju fuq is-serjetà li ilna nisimgħu biha.

Biex tgħaxxaqha kien hemm wieħed avukat li qalilna li ankè hu jagħmel il-verifiki (due diligence) dwar il-klijenti tiegħu. Peró dan l-avukat qalilna iktar minn hekk. Għax qalilna x’verifiki jagħmel. Fi stqarrija li huwa stess ħareġ dan l-avukat informa lil kulħadd li l-kumpanija tiegħu tivverifika l-passaport, il-kondotta tal-Pulizija kif ukoll li min japplika jkollu residenza fissa u li din tkun dokumentata.

Issa din l-informazzjoni hi kollha importanti. Li jkollok passaport validu, indirizz fiss u kondotta tal-Pulizija huwa tajjeb bħala punt tat-tluq. Imma ma naħsibx li hu biżżejjed biex tinduna jekk klijent huwiex assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta. . Imma wisq nibża’ li ftit li xejn qed isir tiftix iktar minn hekk għax kieku hu impossibli li jkun hemm daqstant li qed jiġru warajhom il-Pulizija Taljana u jinstabu fostna.

Wara kollox ħadd ma għandu timbru fuq moħħu jew fuq il-passaport li hu assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta.

Jiena ma naħsibx li xi ħadd hawn Malta fid-deher fittex li jissieħeb mal-kriminalità organizzata f’dan il-qasam. Probabbilment li kienu huma li bi ħsieb fittxew li jinqdew b’dawk il-professjonisti li isimhom ħasbu li seta jiftħilhom il-bibien mingħajr ħafna mistoqsijiet li huma jqisu żejda.

Hemm bżonn li l-verifiki jsiru ferm aħjar minn dak li jidher li sar s’issa. Fuq kollox hemm bżonn li titneħħa s-segretezza minn dan il-qasam.

Għax għalkemm in-numru ta’ dawk li qed ikunu kawża ta’ problema huma ftit, kull wieħed hu żejjed.

From toxic waste to iGaming



It is a well known fact that the underworld on the Italian peninsula controls vast stretches of the Italian economy.

Some readers would remember the underworld’s waste-management activity that ended in the sinking of some 42 ships laden with toxic and/or hazardous waste throughout the Mediterranean. This was well known to environmentalists but confirmed during the Palermo maxi-processo, when Mafia turncoat Francesco Fonti gave evidence identifying the location of one such sunken ship, the Kunsky, loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste, just off the Calabrian coast.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at one time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were partly financed by the Italian underworld, which supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. Rai Tre’s investigative journalist Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin were murdered in Mogadishu after having successfully tracked down the toxic shipments.

In early 2008 it was identified that buffalo mozzarella originating from some 83 dairy farms in an area near Naples was tainted with dioxin. The buffalo were grazing in an area where the Mafia was controlling the dumping of toxic waste  containing dioxin. When ingested through food dioxin can cause birth defects and organ failure in mammals. Large quantities of buffalo mozzarella tainted with dioxin were withdrawn from the market.

Carmine Schiavone, another Mafia turncoat, spilled the beans on more dumping of toxic and hazardous waste by the Mafia in the Naples area, in particular in the area around Casale di Principe. It has been reported that the incidence of cancer in these areas has skyrocketed as a result of the dumping contaminating the water table.

It is estimated that the underworld has garnered some €20 billion a year in the last few years from its illicit dealings in waste. Add to this the billions from its drug dealings, estimated at another €20 billion annually and you can clearly understand the Mafia’s need to launder huge sums of money.

Two specific areas seem to have been selected for this purpose. One such area was an investment in wind-farms in Sicily. Wheeling and dealing in the Sicilian wind farms was a certain Gaetano Buglisi who, for a time, made use of Malta’s fiduciary services by hiding behind their corporate veil. Last February the Italian Courts sentenced him to three years in jail as well as a substantial fine on finding him guilty of tax evasion.

It is within this context that one should try to understand the iGaming saga in Malta.

In the last few days the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has suspended the operating licences of a number of iGaming operators. Until the time of writing, six operators have been suspended, namely : Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq), Betsolution4U Limited, Alibaba Casino Limited, Soft Casino Limited,   Fenplay Limited and Soft Bet Limited . The MGA did not act on its own initiative but at the request of Italian law enforcement agencies.

In a press release, the MGA stated these licences had been suspended “further to investigations and arrests carried out by the Italian law enforcement authorities in collaboration with the Maltese police. The MGA is providing full support to the relevant authorities so that Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction of excellence is kept free from crime and money laundering. The MGA is also alerting counterpart regulators in other EU jurisdictions about this case.”

In a further press release issued on 25 July it was stated  “At the time of application (according to the MGA’s records), in line with standard procedures, all directors, shareholders, senior managers and ultimate beneficiary owners of these companies have been screened through MGA’s systems and protocols, using probity tools and national and international contacts and organisations. This forms part of the probity checks conducted at pre-licensing stage and before the actual business model of the gaming operation in question is screened and other control systems are checked and approved. The licensing process also includes independent audits, such as system and compliance audits which are carried out by approved external auditors.”

It seems that the due diligence carried out in Malta is no match for the underworld. It is possibly a case of amateurs trying to keep professionals in check.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stated that a review of due diligence procedures will be undertaken and changes will be put in place if  required. As a start, he should consider embedding complete transparency in iGaming. Hiding the identity of iGaming operators should be discontinued by emending legislation and discontinuing fiduciary services. This corporate veil is unfortunately being used as a tool by the underworld. As a nation we could do better if we make an effort to keep organised crime as far away from Malta’s economic activities as possible. It is pertinent to ask: how many iGaming jobs in Malta depend on Mafia linked operators.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 2 August 2015

On this blog on the same subject one can view the following :

2009 The eco-threat of the Italian Mafia.

2013 On Malta’s Northern doorstep: the Mafia contaminates Southern Italy with millions of tonnes of toxic and nuclear waste.

2013 Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.

2013 Schiavone’s secrets on eco-mafia operations: when will Malta’s government speak up.

Qed tinħoloq bejta għall-kriminalità organizzata

Mafia linked-companies



Hu ta’ serjetà kbira li l-Awtorità dwar il-Lotteriji u Logħob ieħor (Lotteries and Gaming Authority) tirtira liċenzja.

Matul dawn il-ġranet irtirat diversi liċenzji u dan wara rapport ta’ investigazzjoni minn awtoritajiet Taljani li indikaw illi xi kumpaniji tal-iGaming f’Malta kienu qed iservu għall-ħasil tal-flus ġejjin mid-droga negozjata mill-kriminalità organizzata Taljana.

Ġew arrestati numru ta’ persuni ta’ nazzjonalità Taljana, liema persuni kienu identifikati mill-awtoritajiet Taljani.

Din hi biss parti mill-problema.

Dawn il-kumpaniji tal-iGaming, (logħob tal-azzard online) biex ġew irreġistrati f’Malta kienu eżaminati b’reqqa kbira, qalulna. Anzi “very stringent procedures“. Mhux biss il-kumpaniji, iżda ukoll kull min għandu jew kellu x’jaqsam magħhom. Dan l-eżami bir-reqqa, li jissejjaħ due diligence (kliem tqil biex jippruvaw ifhemuna s-serjetà kbira ħafna li hemm assoċjata ma dawn l-affarijiet) sar kemm mill-Awtorità dwar il-Lotteriji u Logħob ieħor (Lotteries and Gaming Authority) kif ukoll mid-ditti professjonali li jagħtu s-servizzi meħtieġa lil min jaħdem f’dan il-qasam.

Wieħed minn dawn il-professjonisti, f’mument ta’ serjetà kbira, fisser lill media fiex kienet tikkonsisti l-investigazzjoni ta’ għamlet waħda minn dawn id-ditti professjonali. Qalilna li din id-ditta : “carried out its own due diligence process to ascertain that the individuals concerned were of good standing. This was done by requesting certified copies of the ultimate shareholders’ passports, proof of residential address, as well as copies of their police conduct records.”

Tassew impressjonanti, xi profondità ta’ investigazzjoni. Mhux diffiċli biex tifhem li din l-investigazzjoni kif deskritta hi waħda superfiċjali għall-aħħar. Din hi kollezzjoni ta’ dokumenti u bl-ebda mod ma tista’ titqies investigazzjoni jew due diligence.

Fuq il-website tal-Awtorità dwar il-Lotteriji u Logħob ieħor issibu l-ismijiet tal-kumpaniji tal-iGaming li f’dawn il-ġranet kellhom il-liċenzja tagħhom irtirata: Fenplay Limited, Soft Bet Limited, Soft Casino Limited, Uniq Group Limited, Betsolutions4U Limited u Alibaba Casino Limited.

Tul is-snin li għaddew il-Gvernijiet differenti qalulna li l-kumpaniji tal-iGaming [jiġifieri kumpaniji bħal dawn li kellhom il-liċenzja irtirata] kienu qed jiġġeneraw ix-xogħol u kien ġustifikat (qalulna) li niġbduhom lejn Malta billi nagħtuhom rati favorevoli ħafna ta’ taxxa. Fil-fatt, taxxi, jħallsu ftit li xejn.

Qiegħed jidher ċar, u dan hu biss dak li nafu s’issa, illi Malta jidher li saret attrazzjoni għall-ħasil tal-flus mill-kriminalità organizzata. Sfortunatament l-“investigazzjonijiet profondi” li mingħalihom qed jagħmlu l-awtoritajiet Maltin (kif ukoll uħud mill-uffiċini professjonali f’Malta) ma kienux kapaċi jindunaw li mix-xibka tal-kontrolli kollha soffistikati li kellhom, għadda dan il-laqqx.

Ovvjament hemm kumpaniji li ma ħolqu l-ebda problemi. Imma sfortunatament huma l-kumpaniji li rtirawlhom il-liċenzja f’dawn il-ġranet li qed jagħtuna isem ħażin. Minn dan jista’ jbati l-pajjiż kollu. Għax qed nitilfu l-kredibilità u bil-mod qed nieħdu l-fama ta’ bejta għall-kriminalità organizzata.

Meta l-“Mulej” jitbissem ……………. lil tal-Mafja


L-arresti f’Malta u fl-Italja, il-bieraħ, juru kemm pajjiżna, bħal kull pajjiż ieħor wara kollox, huwa taħt theddida.

L-istituzzjonijiet huma taħt theddida mill-kriminalità organizzata. Parti kbira mit-theddida hi l-presenza ta’ persuni bħall-Mulej fl-istituzzjonijiet. Dawn inawwru l-istituzzjonijiet minn ġewwa, tant li meta tfittex, tispiċċa biex ma ssib kważi xejn.

Huma sitta l-kumpaniji konnessi mal-logħob tal-azzard f’Malta li issemmew (bil-pulit gaming industry). Dawn is-sitt kumpaniji f’Malta kellhom il-liċenzji tagħhom sospiżi u l-assi tagħhom sekwestrati. Sitt ċittadini Taljani ġew arrestati u ser ikunu estraditi fil-kuntest ta’ investigazzjoni iktar wiesa’ konnessa mal-Indraghetta, l-organizzazzjoni kriminali ibbażata fil-pajjiż ġar tagħna l-Italia, preċiżment fil-Calabria.

Iktar kmieni, Taljan ieħor ġie arrestat hekk kif kien għadu kif wasal bil-katamaran f’Pozzallo Sqallija direttament minn Malta.

M’hiex sitwazzjoni faċli. Imma issir iktar ikkumplikata meta jkun hemm dubju dwar l-istituzzjonijiet.

Ftit iktar minn xahar ilu il-gazzetti lokali kienu taw pubbliċita lill-fatt li Spettur tal-Pulizija fl-Economic Crimes Unit kellu interessi ta’ negozju fl-industrija tal-logħob tal-azzard. Dan l-istess Spettur tal-Pulizija kien ukoll ġie misluf Ferrari minn ħabib tiegħu fl-industrija.

Huma affarijiet li diffiċli tifhem kif jistgħu jsiru, dejjem sakemm ma tirrealizzawx li meta l-Mulej ikun miegħek, bi tbissima, tista’ tagħmel kważi kollox.

Għax għalkemm dawn l-affarijiet qed joħorġu fid-dawl tax-xemx illum, ilhom jinħmew. Rabbew egħruq fil-fond tul is-snin. B’mod partikolari meta l-Mulej kien imexxi l-Korp tal-Pulizija dawn l-egħruq issaħħu.

M’għandniex wisq biex nistagħġbu b’dak li ġara. Anzi iktar hemm għax ninkwetaw li ma nafux b’iktar. Għax min jaf x’sar u x’hemm għaddej li ma nafux bih.

Ngħiduha kif inhi: jekk il-Mulej ikun miegħek, min jista’ jeħodha kontrik?


Tackling the green skills gap

green skills 3

Launching the public consultation on the Green Economy last month, Ministers Leo Brincat and Evarist Bartolo emphasised the need to address the green skills gap in the process leading to a Green Economy strategy and action plan.

It is estimated that 20 million jobs will be created in the Green Economy between now and 2020 within the European Union. Capacity building is the greatest challenge: ensuring that more working men and women are adequately equipped with green skills.

The Green Economy includes activities in different sectors. It is possible to go about activity in these sectors in a manner which reduces their environmental impacts, is socially inclusive and economically rewarding.

Various sectors have been identified as being of key importance in the transition to a Green Economy. The basic characteristics which distinguish the Green Economy are a reduction of carbon emissions, the reduction of all forms of pollution, energy and resource efficiency, prevention of biodiversity loss  and the protection of eco-system services.

The United Nations Environment Programme  has repeatedly emphasised that the transition to a Green Economy enables economic growth and investment while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness. A Green Economy is one which respects the eco-system and recognises that there are natural limits  which, if exceeded, endanger the earth’s ecological balance. In effect it means that the transition to a Green Economy signifies addressing all of our environmental impacts in all areas of activity. Addressing impacts in one area would still signify progress although this would be of limited benefit.

An agriculture which forms part of the Green Economy is one which works with nature, not against it. It uses water sustainably and does not contaminate it. Green agriculture does not seek to genetically modify any form of life nor to patent it.

Energy efficient buildings, clean and renewable energy together with the sustainable use of land are also basic building blocks of the Green Economy. We cannot speak of the Green Economy whilst simultaneously tolerating  large scale building construction. Having a stock of 72,000 vacant dwellings, (irrespective of the reasons for their being vacant) signifies that as a nation we have not yet understood that the limited size of the Maltese islands ought to lead to a different attitude. The green skills of politicians and their political appointees on MEPA is what’s lacking in this regard.

Maritime issues are of paramount economic importance to Malta’s economy. The depleted fish stock and the quality of sea water are obvious issues. But the impacts of organised crime through the dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea is not to be underestimated as has been evidenced time and again in the exploits of the eco-mafia reign to our north.

Heavy industry is fortunately absent in Malta. New industries like the pharmaceutical industry are more eco-conscious. However we still require more inputs on resource efficiency and eco-design.

Greening tourism is essential in order to ensure that more of tourism’s environmental impacts are addressed.  The consumption of tourism is 50% more per capita than that registered for a resident, indicating that there is room for considerable improvements.

Public transport is still in shambles. The effects of this state of affairs is evident in the ever increasing number of passenger cars on our roads which have a major impact on air and noise pollution in our communities. Greening transport policies signifies that the mobility of all is ensured with the least possible impacts.  Still a long way to go.

Waste management has made substantial improvement over the years even though it is still way  behind EU targets. It is positive that the draft waste management strategy has established the attaining of a Zero Waste target by 2050. However we still await the specifics of how this is to be achieved. It is achievable but the commitment of all is essential.

Our water resources have been mismanaged, year in, year our. Discharging millions of litres of treated sewage effluent into the sea is just the cherry on the cake. The contaminated and depleted water table which still contributes around 40% to Malta’s potable water supply is in danger of being  completely lost for future generations if we do not act fast.

All the above have been dealt with in various policy documents. One such document is the National Sustainable Development Strategy which establishes the parameters for the action required. Implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy is the obvious first step in establishing a Green Economy.  It is here where the real green skill gap exists. Decision makers lack green skills. This skill gap exists at the level of Cabinet, Parliament, the top echelons of the civil service and in the ranks of the political appointees to Boards and Authorities where decisions are taken and strategies implemented.

When this skill gap is addressed, the rest will follow and we will be on the way to establishing  a green economy.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 14 December 2013

The tip of the iceberg: In 2011 a €20 billion Mafia racket from dumping of toxic and nuclear waste


What follows is an article published 2 years ago in the UK Independent :

Mafia earning €20bn from dumping toxic waste

Italy’s mafia clans, best known for drug running and extortion rackets, are earning €20 billion a year by turning the south of the country into a toxic waste dump, an environmental organisation said in a major report.

Heavy metals and cancer-causing organic compounds are being illegally buried with increasing frequency, often in agricultural areas or on land that is used to build new homes, the Legambiente group warns.

The dangers to human health were dramatically illustrated when contaminated farmland outside Naples was blamed for the discovery of toxic dioxins in the region’s prized buffalo mozzarella cheese in 2008.

And the escalating risk is underlined by the new report which shows that last year the authorities seized a record two million tonnes of dangerous waste on its way for disposal, often in the one of Italy’s four southern-most regions, Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Puglia where the country’s four main mafia groups hold sway.

Enrico Fontana, Legambiente’s spokesman on environmental and organised crime, said the figure was just the tip of the iceberg. “There was a lot more that was not intercepted,” he said. “And this market makes the mafia huge amounts of money. And the amount they earn from it is growing,” he said.

At the latest count, in 2010, around 31,000 environmental crimes were committed, the report says, with 41% of them involving illegal waste disposal and recycling of cement.

Campania, the region around Naples whose streets are perpetually carpeted in piles of stinking garbage, is the worst-hit part of the country, it is claimed. The local mafia, the Camorra, is frequently blamed for exacerbating or even causing the rubbish crisis – by encouraging the closure of official incineration plants – in order to fan demand for its illegal dumping services.

The Camorra’s role was underlined today by the arrest of Naples-area businessman Ludovico Ucciero for allegedly helping local mobsters enrich themselves through control of garbage removal and incineration. Mr Ucciero runs four rubbish removal companies, which have been seized by authorities.

Campania is followed in the environmental abuse stakes by Calabria, home to the powerful ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate. Then comes Sicily the base of Cosa Nostra, and Puglia, the home of the Sacra Corona Unita crime group. The four southern regions together accounted for 45% of the overall environmental-crime tally.

But Mr Fontana warned that it was not only Italy’s south was under threat from toxic dumping. “It’s happening now in Lombardy (the region around the northern city of Milan). ‘ndrangheta is dumping toxic waste there in or at places where homes and offices are being constructed,” he said. “The Ecomafia is a virus that poisons the environment, pollutes the economy and endangers people’s health.”

According to the report, Italy was the also “the crossroads for the international traffic in dangerous waste and radioactive material coming from other countries that was destined for, via sea, Africa and Asian countries”.

Legambiente said illegal building was another environmental blight that was on the rise, with 26,500 properties illicitly constructed last year. Mr Fontana said that as a result “parks and countryside and other places an area the size of 540 soccer pitches has been stolen”.

Sometimes hideous, concrete monsters sprout up to despoil some of Italy’s most beautiful coast and countryside. Earlier this year, four people were arrested in connection with the illegal construction of the eight-storey “Ecomonster” at Sant’Agata in Puglia.

Illicit and shoddily constructed homes, using poor quality cement, are also prone to collapse, as was the case with the student dormitory that subsided during the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake killing eight students.

Mr Fontana said the Italian government should introduce as a matter of urgency more severe penalties. Currently only one activity, organisation of illegal waste trafficking, has the status of a serious crime that can be punished by longer jail terms and investigated by wiretaps. “The act of dumping poison and polluting streams and the air,” should also be classified in this way,” he said.

Making a killing from the environment

1. Mozzarella

In March 2008 the Italian government recalled from sale buffalo mozzarella cheese made by 25 producers in the Campania region near Naples, after they were found to contain high levels of the dangerous chemical dioxin. Toxic waste, illegally dumped by criminals on agricultural land used for pasture, was blamed.

2. Toxic ships

Authorities in Calabria fear that ‘ndrangheta mobsters have deliberately sunk ships carrying toxic or radioactive cargoes of the region’s coastline it order to make money from the insurance claims. Legambiente has said that 30 or more such ships, may have sunk off the Calabrian coast in suspicious circumstances in the past two decades.

3. Wind power

In September last year it emerged that Cosa Nostra was attempting to cream off millions of euros from both the Italian government and the European Union, by snatching the generous grants on offer for investment in wind power. Police seized mob assets – worth €1.5bn (£1.25bn) – from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns.

Schiavone’s secrets on Eco-Mafia operations: when will Malta’s government speak up?


I have dealt with eco-Mafia in previous blogposts. It handles toxic and nuclear waste, pockets the substantial fees for handling such waste and then dumps the waste wherever the Mafia feels it is necessary. It has pocketed billions in the process.

They have done it when they sunk 42 ships in the Mediterranean Sea carrying loads of toxic and nuclear waste. This they did in the 1980s and 90s.

They did it when they dumped toxic waste in disused quarries which ended up as the grazing grounds for herds of buffalos in the agricultural areas around  Napoli. As a result buffalo mozzarella ended up being withdrawn from the market in March 2008.

Last week Carmine Schiavone’s secret testimony given 16 years ago to one of the Italian Parliament’s Committees was published. In this testimony he reveals more cases of dumping of toxic and nuclear waste in various areas around Napoli.

In addition to the impacts on the communities residing in the Napoli area, all this could have serious implications beyond Napoli.

I can think of 4 basic impacts on Malta of the activities of eco-Mafia throughout the years, namely :

1. 60% of Malta’s water is purified sea water; hence what goes into the sea is of primary importance for us;
2. fish is an important part of our diet; fish do not respect boundaries; marine pollution is known to be absorbed by fish and passed on through the foodchain;
3. health and safety of fishermen in polluted waters is of considerable concern;
4. the polluted ground water, and polluted fields in the Naples area are also of concern due to their impact on the  foodchain. In Malta we import various food products from Italy.

It would be interesting to be informed as to why the Maltese Government has been silent on the matter for so long.

Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.


Carmine Schiavone’s secrets are now public knowledge. They  join the testimony of Francesco Fonti at the Mafia’s maxi-processo in Palermo. The mozzarella scandal of 2008 pales into insignificance.

Organised crime has a solid grip on toxic and nuclear waste disposal in the Italian peninsula. They dumped it in  areas where buffalos grazed. They dumped in areas around Naples, in particular around Casale di Principe or in the Mediterranean Sea. Francesco Fonti had mentioned 42 ships laden with toxic and nuclear waste which were sunk in different areas of the Mediterranean. The location of one them, the Cunsky (vide illustration above) had been identified just off the coast of Calabria loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste.

The latest revelations involve the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste originating from Germany and Northern Italy  in areas where they contaminated ground water.

Legambiente, the Italian environment NGO is not surprised with the information revealed in Schiavone’s testimony. Over the years it has documented countless cases which it classifies under the title Ecomafia: it has published annual reports on the matter since the year 2000.

I will not bother you with more details. Just one tiny bit: one particular health centre in the Naples area has identified that the number of cancer cases it deals with has skyrocketed from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

The New York Times on Sunday reported : Mafia’s dumping of toxic waste blamed for high cancer rates in Italy.  “Cancer rates have increased 47% for men and 40% for women in the areas around Naples and Pompeii thanks to illegal disposal by Mafia-controlled companies that occurred during a 20-year period, in which the harmful substances were dumped into lakes, farmland, quarries and caves.”

In Malta the above has not triggered any particular interest yet.