Toxic nuclear and industrial waste, dumped illegally by the Neapolitan mafia, is responsible for a surge in cancers in southern Italy, it is feared.
The Italian Senate is investigating a link between buried pollutants and a rise of almost 50 per cent in tumours found in the inhabitants of several towns around Naples.
In classified documents from 1997, only now released to the public, a mafia kingpin warned authorities that the poison in the ground would kill everyone ‘within two decades’.
Camorra chief Francesco Schiavone, once the world’s number one mafia fugitive, said: ‘The inhabitants are all at risk of dying from cancer within twenty years.
‘In towns like Casapesenna, Casal di Principe, Castel Volturno, and so on, they have, perhaps, twenty years to live. In fact I don’t think anyone will survive.’
Doctors first noticed that cancers in towns around Naples were on the rise in the 1990s. But since that time they have increased by 40 per cent in women and 47 per cent in men.
The illegal trafficking of hazardous waste came to light in 1997 when Francesco’s cousin, Carmine Schiavone, was overcome by guilt at the environmental damage he and others were inflicting, and decided to turn super-grass.
Francesco Schiavone was arrested and eventually given a life sentence for a string of murders.
In secret out-of-court testimony he told lawyers how the Casalesi clan ran ‘a military style operation’ dumping millions of tonnes of waste on farmland, in caves, in quarries and even on the edge of towns.
The mafia family also disposed of contaminated waste in Lake Lucrino and all along the coast.
Operatives were equipped with real police and carabinieri uniforms, as well as firearms, and the clans raked in huge profits of up to 600 million of the old lire (£200,000) a month.
The industry became an officially clan-sanctioned ‘business’ in 1990 but had been going on long before.
Nuclear sludge, brought in on trucks from plants in Germany, was dumped in landfills, Schiavone said. The trucks would unload waste at night before earth was thrown over with a JCB.
He said: ‘I know that some is on land where buffalo live today, and on which no grass grows’
The cost of a clean up would run into billions, he said, describing several sites in the suburbs of Naples.
Schiavone revealed: ‘We buried 520 drums of toxic waste in a specially dug quarry near the town of Pure Villaricca. But we also did it in very populated places, outside towns- at Casal di Principe behind the sports field at the edge of the motorway.’
He added: ‘We disposed of 70 or 80 trucks from the north, millions and millions of tonnes.
‘To clean it up it would cost the entire Italian budget for a year I think.’
The lower house in the Italian Parliament had elected to make the documents public in the interests of transparency.
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