World War One

Toxic shipwreck turns out to be red herring

By Guy Dinmore and Eleonora de Sabata - Financial Times

Italian prosecutors searching for the wreck of a ship allegedly scuttled by the mafia with toxic waste on board in 1992 say the vessel they surveyed this week in deep waters off the coast of Calabria turned out instead to be a passenger steamship sunk by a German submarine in 1917.

Fears of coastal pollution had led to protests by local fishermen, residents and mayors who accused the central government of not doing enough to resolve the issue.

Prosecutors told a news conference in Rome on Thursday evening that after finding the World War One wreck of the Catania they had decided to call off the search for a ship which Francesco Fonti, a mafia turncoat, claims to have sent to the bottom with dynamite in 1992.

Mr Fonti’s allegations, first made to prosecutors in 2003, followed years of inconclusive investigations into at least 20 suspicious sinkings of ships in the Mediterranean in the 1980s and 1990s.

Prosecutors suspected that the mafia was dumping toxic waste at sea, possibly working on behalf of industrialists and government agencies.