Monthly Archives: November 2009

Garbage crisis and organized crime

Anthony M. Quattrone

Garbage in Pozzuoli, January 2008. Photo by Anthony M. Quattrone.

The connection between Neapolitan organized crime, known as “camorra” and politicians in Naples and other cities in the Campania Region has been at the center of the political debate over the past years.  The debate has become more passionate following the request made by a public prosecutor to arrest politician Nicola Cosentino.  Earlier this week, the Office of the Public Prosecutor sent to the Chamber of Deputies a request to arrest Cosentino, who is an undersecretary of the ministry of the economy of the Berlusconi government and a Member of Parliament.  Cosentino cannot be arrested without the consent of the Chamber of Deputies.  He is accused of providing outside support to the illegal activities of the camorra in relation to the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage in the Campania Region.  The camorra-politicians-garbage disposal paradigm has come to the attention of magistrates over the course of the past fifteen years, but no major politician has ever been arrested.

The garbage disposal crisis and its link to organized crime has been officially recognized by the Italian state for the past fifteen years.  On 11 February 1994, the Italian government, headed by Arzeglio Ciampi, declared a state of emergency in Naples and nominated a commissioner with special powers to deal with the disposal of garbage.  Since then, eleven commissioners have been nominated by different national and regional governments, which, in the meantime, have alternated between center left and center right majorities.  The head of the civil protection, two prefects, and two presidents of the Campania region, one from the center right, Antonio Rastrelli, and one from the center left, Antonio Bassolino, took turns as commissioners.  In the end, by the spring of 2008, the Naples garbage crisis hit the international media, placing Naples on the front pages of virtually every major newspaper in the world.  The images of Naples covered with tons of garbage eventually led to millions of euro in missed income, especially in the tourism industry.

The camorra was able to become central in the garbage disposal system by controlling the dumping grounds, and by infiltrating the garbage collection and hauling system.  The role of the commissioner was intended to oppose the power of the camorra in the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage.  The commissioner was given special powers by the central government in Rome, to include the authorization to award contracts, without competition, to face an emergency.

The camorra had infiltrated the garbage disposal system by digging and managing illegal dumps.  As older dumps used by the city filled up, the camorra was able to direct the dumping towards its own grounds, allegedly controlling also the companies contracted to transport the collected garbage to the dumps.  Organized crime had the will and the power to create dumps virtually in any location of the Region where power shovels and other mechanical gear could operate.

Several prosecutors in Naples have been investigating the link between construction companies allegedly belonging to organized crime and local politicians.  The magistrates are focusing their attention on those contracts that allegedly have been awarded to companies controlled by organized crime.  These camorra-run companies have been able to underbid competitors because they are able to contain costs by using illegal dumping grounds.  Organized crime is also accused of managing the illegal transportation and disposal of toxic and dangerous waste produced in northern Italy and illegally dumped in Campania.  According to a local regional environmental agency, there are dozens of illegal dumps in Campania, and many contain toxic waste, which is polluting water springs, agricultural lands, and pastures.  Studies are underway to determine the effects of the toxic waste on the health of the population living in the proximity of the illegal dumps.

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Saviano will not run for President of the Campania region

La procura di Napoli

Office of the Public Prosecutor of Naples

Anthony M. Quattrone

Roberto Saviano, author of the best seller Gomorrah, rejects the offer to become the next president of the Campania Region. Saviano, in an interview on 11 November 2009 with Linea Notte, an Italian nightly new program on state television, RAI 3, stated that “it is not the first time that I receive such an offer, but to be an author, I need to be impartial. I really cannot tie myself to any grouping”. He made the statement in the context of a television program dealing with the request put forward to Parliament, by a prosecutor in Naples, to arrest Nicola Cosentino, the regional coordinator for the center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL) party. In Italy, Members of Parliament have limited immunity, and they can be arrested only with the consent of chamber to which they belong

Coming out a meeting with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on 12 November 2009, Cosentino confirmed his intention to become a candidate for the office of president of the Campania Region, for the elections that will take place next March, in spite of allegations of collusion with organized crime and the request for his arrest. Cosentino is a member of parliament and an undersecretary for the economy in the Italian government.

At the end of the meeting with the Prime Minister, Cosentino informed the press that he had obtained Berlusconi’s solidarity, and that he had duly informed the Prime Minister that he had no intention of withdrawing from the race for the regional presidency because “it should not be the prosecutors who decide how democratic processes should take place.” According to Cosentino, “there is a wide consensus regarding my candidacy, and I have no intention of giving up, and the Prime Minister has not asked me to bow out”. Thirty senators who belong to the PdL have asked the Minister of Justice to audit the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Naples, to investigate the “climate of conflict” reigning in the office. According to members of the center left parties, Berlusconi’s party is trying to intimidate the magistrates and prosecutors.

Cosentino’s decision to not withdraw his candidacy is causing ferment inside the PdL party. The Member of Parliament, Fabio Granata, vice president of the Antimafia Commission and member of the PdL, is of the opinion that Cosentino should withdraw his candidacy. Granata believes that in accordance with the current turn of events, Cosentino’s candidature is completely inopportune

Granata’s view is supported by the President of the Italian Parliament, Gianfranco Fini, who is a cofounder of the PdL party. Fini stated, during an evening news program on 11 November 2009, that he could “guarantee that Berlusconi is convinced that it is not opportune to put forward the candidacy of the honorable Cosentino. I can reconfirm that Cosentino will not be a candidate.”

It is not clear which of Berlusconi’s alleged statements is the correct one: is it Cosentino’s understanding that Berlusconi is behind him, or is it Fini’s understanding that Berlusconi is against Cosentino’s candidacy?

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Arrest warrant for Cosentino?

Berlusconi with Cosentino from l'Espresso

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with undersecretary Nicola Cosentino

Anthony M. Quattrone

Carlo Alemi, the president of the Court of Naples, stated, in an interview published in the Naples edition of the national paper La Repubblica on 9 November 2009, that he would prefer that political parties do not put forward as candidates for public offices anyone who was officially under investigation or suspected of having committed a crime.  Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and co-founder with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the center-right party, Popolo della Libertà (PdL), stated in an interview with journalist Fabio Fazio, broadcast on 8 November 2009 on Italian national television, that politics will take a big step forward when candidates who have many votes based on “non transparent powers” are excluded from the electoral process.

Approximately 24 hours after the statements made by judge Alemi and president Fini, a prosecutor in Naples, Raffaele Piccirillo, issued an arrest warrant against under secretary for the economy, Nicola Cosentino. The warrant has been sent to the office of president Fini because Cosentino is currently a member of the Chamber of Deputies, and, as such, cannot be arrested without the specific authorization by Parliament.  It is not know if the warrant calls for custody in jail, home arrest, or another restrictive measure of a geographical type (limiting his ability to travel outside of a specific geographic area).  The warrant should be arriving at Fini’s desk on Tuesday, 10 November 2009.

Cosentino, who is the regional coordinator of the PdL party in Campania, is accused of assisting a Neapolitan mafia clan, the Casalesi, as an external associate, through his political offices. Read whole article

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Gomorrah author possible candidate for Campania president

Anthony M. Quattrone

Roberto Saviano portrait

Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah

The leader of the Italia dei Valori (IDV) party (Italy of Values party), Antonio Di Pietro, stated on Friday, 6 November 2009, that he will support Roberto Saviano for president of the Campania region during the elections that will take place next March.  Saviano has gained worldwide fame by authoring a well documented book, Gomorrah, detailing the relationship between politics, industry and the Camorra, the Neapolitan version of the Mafia.  Di Pietro is a former magistrate who, in the  early 1990s was active in prosecuting major Italian politicians involved in corruption and bribery cases.  Di Pietro was part of a wider team of magistrates based in Milan who were known by the press as the “clean hands” pool.  The work done by Di Pietro and the other magistrates of the pool eventually led to the dissolution of both the Italian Socialist and Christian Democratic Parties in the mid 90s.

The elections for the presidency of the Campania region will represent a major test for both the governing center right coalition led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, which includes the Popolo della Libertà (People of Liberty) and the Northern League, and for the two major parties on the center left, the Democratic Party and Di Pietro’s IDV, which are facing significant difficulties in forming a coalition.  The Union of Democrats of the Center led by Pier Ferdinando Casini, formed by remnants of the disbanded Christian Democrats, and a group of smaller leftist parties have not yet announced if they will run on their own, or if they will support a candidate from one of the two major coalitions.

The current president of the Campania Region, Antonio Bassolino, who is a member of the center left Democratic Party, is under heavy criticism for inefficiencies related to the management of the garbage crisis that hit Naples and other areas in the  Campania region in 2007 and 2008.  He is also criticized for having developed a vast spoils system awarding consultancy  and outsourcing contracts to loyal followers. Read whole article

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