Supplier of Waste Found in Bulgaria Arrested in Italy for Burning Toxic Rubbish

Atanas Tchobanov

The owner of Dentice Pantaleone had been detained in Italy in 2009 as a member of an organized crime group for illegal incineration of toxic waste. This emerges from publications in the Italian press at the time. On January 17 and 18, Bulgaria’s National Security Agency (DANS) and the Prosecutor’s Office special ops in the Bulgarian ports of Varna-West and Burgas-West, found 25 containers of waste, sent from this company. According to Bulgarian investigators, their content is suspicious.

On March 9, 2009, the Carabinieri Department of Environmental Operations in Rome arrested 13 people, including Paolo Meaglia, Gaetano De Feo and Pantaleone Dentice, the manager of the waste transportation and disposal company with the same name.

The operation, led by prosecutor Veletti, targeted the illegal incineration of Rome’s toxic waste. The carabinieri had intercepted phone calls for months prior to the arrests. According to investigating judge Alessandra Ilari, they had acted as an organized criminal group that falsified data on large quantities of unsorted municipal waste, designating it as suitable for incineration despite the lack of the characteristics required by law. They had forged even the software that warns of harmful emissions from incineration at the Colleferro incinerator. The damage from the fraud is estimated at EUR 60 million.

It is unclear how the investigation has ended, whether an indictment has been filed and whether Dentice and the others from the group have been tried.

This is the third case of Italians delivering waste to Bulgaria and having had legal problems.

In August 2019, an investigation by Bivol revealed that the waste delivered to several Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) of Bulgarian energy mogul Hristo Kovachki came from Ecoexport S.r.L., a firm of Sergio Gozza. In July 2010, Gozza was arrested, along with 16 other suspects, during an operation led by prosecutors in Naples and Ancona and was placed under house arrest. The group is accused of falsifying results from a lab test for arsenic levels in 150,000 metric tons of waste destined for Germany. Prosecutors said the defendants were “fully aware of their role in the complex scheme of illegal storing of waste”. However, because of a statute of limitations, they have not been sentenced.

At the beginning of January 2020, another investigation by Bivol revealed that the company Vibeco has supplied the waste found at a site in the northwestern city of Pleven. Vibeco is the target of an investigation into waste trafficking organized by the Camorra. The company Bm Service, which is being investigated for links to the Ndrangheta, has transported the waste for Pleven. It has transported 30,000 metric tons of baled waste from the “mummified” garbage dump near Villa Literno to the port of Naples, from where the bales have been shipped to the Bulgarian port of Varna.

In December 2019, as part of a large-scale investigation into the Ndrangheta in Italy, the authorities seized in Italy a train with 800 metric tons of waste destined for Bulgaria. Its recipient in Bulgaria remains unknown. A reporter of Bivol contacted Massimiliano Corsano, Commander of the Carabinieri Group for the Environmental Protection of Milan. According to him, the Bulgarian authorities have not inquired about the detained train and the Italian authorities are not intending to seek or provide information to their Bulgarian counterparts until the investigation is completed.

In the meantime, inspections of the landfills and ports in Bulgaria have been initiated at the request of the Prosecutor General, with irregularities being reported almost daily. Inspectors also entered TPP Bobov Dol for which Bivol revealed in video footage that it continues to burn unsorted waste by mixing it with coal. According to the new Minister of Environment Emil “The Auditor” Dimitrov -, no hazardous waste has been incinerated there, but there are violations nonetheless.

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