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Milan toxic waste probe leads to six arrests, 38 charged

Ex-environment ministry official accused of taking bribe

22 January, 17:05
Milan toxic waste probe leads to six arrests, 38 charged (ANSA) - Milan, January 22 - Six were arrested and 38 more were charged on Wednesday in a corruption probe concerning the alleged fraudulent disposal of toxic waste during the clean up of two brownfields of national prominence near Milan. Toxic waste removed from ex-industrial sites of the former petrochemical producer SISAS were falsely labeled and disposed of as normal waste, claim Milan prosecutors Alfredo Robledo, Paola Pirotta, Paolo Filippini and Piero Basilone.

A former high-ranking official of the environmental ministry was among three jailed on Wednesday. The ministry's former technical office chief, Luigi Pelaggi, is accused of pocketing a bribe of at least 700,000 euros while acting as government commissioner for the remediation of the ex-SISAS sites, located in Pioltello and Rodano in the eastern periphery of Milan. Pelaggi is also being probed in the environmental scandal concerning the ILVA steel plant in the southern Italian port city of Taranto, and was a close collaborator of ex-minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who served as environment minister under ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi from 2008 to 2011.

Two others imprisoned on Wednesday were the chairman of the Daneco Impianti Srl waste-disposal company, Francesco Colucci, and Daneco's chief executive, Bernardino Filipponi. Two board members of Sogesid SpA, Fausto Melli and Luciano Capobianco, were put under house arrest. Melli directed work and safety at the ex-SISAS sites, while Capobianco was operating manager. Claudio Tedesi, a technical advisor for the government commissioner, was also placed under house arrest.

Charges were filed against another 38 people who were not taken into custody.

A statement read they were reported for organizing activities related to "the illegal trafficking of waste". "Among these (were) public officials and owners of companies operating earth movement and the waste cycle," the statement added. Paramilitary Carabinieri police on Wednesday also seized documents from suspects' homes and offices in the operation dubbed Black Smoke, and demanded documents be shown at the Milan and Brescia ARPA environmental agency offices, the National Health Institute and the environment ministry in Rome.

The arrests and seizures marked the close of an investigation launched in 2011.

Greenpeace claimed credit for triggering the probe.

In a note Wednesday, the environmental group said it began scrutinizing remediation at the ex-SISAS sites in early 2011, and found "marked abnormalities in the encoding and delivery, and final storage of waste going to the Spanish landfill Nerva, in the province of Huelva (Andalusia), managed by the company Befesa".