Italian Waste | Part 2: The New Protagonists From Italy

Inkyfada, together with the Italian investigative media IrpiMedia, as well as the Italian television station RaiNews24, revisit the Italian origins of the vast corruption affair surrounding Italian waste, introducing several new and key players. May 2020, almost a year on from the initial arrival of illegally imported household waste from Italy, most of the cargo is still blocked at the port of Sousse.
Written by | 07 May 2021 | 6 minutes | Available in ArabicFrench
From May to June 2020, 282 containers of household waste (smuggled into Tunisia from the port of Salerno in Italy) were offloaded in Sousse. Nearly a year later, and despite the many twists and turns that followed the affair being uncovered, nearly 7,000 tonnes of waste still remain on Tunisian soil, awaiting a resolution.

It all began in Polla, a small village in the hinterland of Salerno, where the company Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali srl (SRA), describes itself as specialised in the recovery and disposal of urban waste that has been collected in Naples and its surrounding areas. After receiving the authorisation to export from the Campania region on September 30, 2019, they signed a contract with the Tunisian company Soreplast for the collection and recovery of household waste (type 19 12 12). 

ONE COMPANY HIDING ANOTHER

The information previously obtained has presented SRA as the sole Italian counterpart to Soreplast. However, in actuality, there is an entirely different Italian company behind this affair. A few days prior to September 10, 2019, Soreplast had signed a contract of the same nature with a Calabrian company called Eco Management S.P.A., based in Soverato, a small coastal town located by the southwestern tip of the country.

According to a document obtained by our associates at RaiNews24 and IrpiMedia, this company would have entrusted Soreplast with a mission of "collection and initial recovery of special waste (of types 19 12 12), up to 10,000 tons per month", and which could reach a ceiling of 120,000 tons in total. 

Six days after signing this initial contract, on September 16, 2019, Eco Management S.P.A. decided to transfer the contract to SRA, in return for an advance payment of €50,000, and the sum of €22 per tonne of waste disposed of. SRA thus took over a business deal that was already fully negotiated, and signed a new contract with the Tunisian company on September 30, 2019. 

This was later confirmed to our colleagues at RaiNews24 by Alfonso Palmieri himself, a member of the board of directors at SRA, who claims to have been in contact with Innocenzo Maurizio Mazzotta, the director of Eco Management S.P.A.

However, Eco Management's role does not end there. In March 2020, shortly after the Campania Region authorised this waste transfer, the Calabrian company sent equipment to Soreplast that could justify the declared recycling operations. Invoices obtained indicate shipment of various second-hand machines such as a waste press and a sorting belt. One of these is priced at €55,000, paid by Soreplast.   

Invoice proving the purchase of machines by Soreplast from the Italian company Eco Management

The machines were then blocked at the port of La Goulette, before being moved to Sidi El Héni, about thirty kilometres from Sousse, where Moncef Noureddine had planned to offload the rest of the containers currently being held at the port. 

The companies meet

In an email reviewed by Inkyfada, it is stated that the link between the Calabrian company Eco Management and the Tunisian company Soreplast was established via the intermediary Paolo Casadonte. Originally from Montepaone, a small coastal town less than 10 km from the Eco Management headquarters in Calabria, Casadonte is the owner of the Tunisian company G.C. Service, which was set up in April 2019 and according to the company's corporate profile has been in breach of tax regulations for more than 12 months. "In Sousse, he is known as 'Paul'. He is also a personal friend of Moncef Noureddine, the manager of Soreplast", says a source closely linked to the case who wishes to remain anonymous. 

According to a document made public via social media, it was also Paolo Casadonte himself who was sent by Antonio Cancro, (the director of SRA) to pick up a parcel from the Industrial Promotion Agency of Sousse (API), containing the contract signed by the two companies, as well as export authorisations. When contacted about this, his lawyer answered on his behalf, denying any involvement despite the existence of the evidence mentioned above: "my client has in no way played the role of consultant or intermediary between these companies."

Exemption granted to Paolo Casadonte by SRA.

Bulgarian Connections

Eco Management was established in 2015, with the main purpose being the collection and treatment of solid urban and industrial waste from the Catanzaro province in Calabria. According to the company's corporate profile, major shareholders include members of two local families (the Mazottas and the Papuccis), as well as two Bulgarian entrepreneurs, as well as the 'Europe Waste Management S.A.' based in Varna, Bulgaria.

It is in this city, situated by the Black Sea, that a scandal concerning waste arriving from Italy broke out in 2016. The procedures that were denounced in Bulgaria concerning the illegal importation of household waste, (officially intended to be recycled), are very similar to the current affair in Tunisia.

"Following the scandals in Eastern Europe (especially in Bulgaria), waste entrepreneurs are searching for new export routes, which seemingly lead to North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa", comments Claudia Salvestrini, director of the Italian consortium Polieco [A consortium for the recycling of polyethylene-based waste products.]

Similar to the trajectory in Tunisia, recent scandals linked to illegal waste trafficking led to the resignation of the former Bulgarian environment minister Neno Dimov. Mustapha Laroui, former Tunisian environment minister, was arrested on December 21, 2020 and has been in prison since then. 

According to information obtained by associates at RaiNews24, the manager of Eco Management, Innocenzo Mazzotta, has direct links to Bulgaria. He reportedly holds shares in three Bulgarian companies, all specialising in waste management and registered at the same address. The premises have been closed and abandoned for some time, neighbours told RaiNews24.

WASTE AWAITING REPATRIATION 

Although the Basel Convention, which governs the transboundary movement of waste, obliges Italy to repatriate the shipment, the official dispatcher of the waste (Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali srl, 'SRA'), is in dispute with the Campania region, and refuses to pay for the repatriation of the waste. The regional courts of Campania and Lazio (the region of Rome) have ruled that SRA's appeals are inadmissible. SRA is demanding that the Campania region pay for returning the waste, the date of which was set for March 24, 2021, but which has been exceeded. 

212 containers are still detained at the port of Sousse, while the contents of the 70 other containers that were released in June 2020 are still languishing in Moureddine. It is in this small rural commune, 15 km from Sousse, that Mohamed Moncef Nourredine (the manager of Soreplast and currently on the run), set up one of his depots.

In an email* accessed by inkyfada, his lawyer states that the company reportedly suffers daily financial losses of more than 4 million dinars, mainly due to the costs of stationing ships and containers, which have been detained since the affair first broke out.

Images taken inside the Moureddine depot, taken by RaiNews24

To date, six people remain in prison, and 26 are being prosecuted, including customs officials being accused of facilitating the illegal entry of this non-recyclable waste on Tunisian soil. Proceedings have also been initiated against the brother of Moncef Noureddine, a lawyer for the company Soreplast who was released on April 27, 2021 after more than two months in prison.

Borj Essalhi: The High Costs of Wind Turbines

On March 4, 2021, a negotiation meeting was held between the Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas (STEG) and the inhabitants of the village of Borj Essalhi in Cap Bon. At the heart of the dispute was the construction of the Sidi Daoud wind farm that took place more than 20 years ago, as it consequently has led to numerous injustices according to the residents. Inkyfada reports.