Italian mafia caught turning toxic plastic into shoes

Italian detectives have dismantled a mafia plastic-recycling ring headed by a murderous mobster that sent toxic materials to China to make shoes which were then sold in Italy, police said on Thursday.

Italian mafia caught turning toxic plastic into shoes
Police in Italy say they discovered footwear for sale made of contaminated plastic. File photo: Michael Schincariol/AFP

Officers threw ten people into pre-trial detention in jail, placed five more under house arrest, and seized five companies in Sicily after uncovering the racket in used plastic sheeting contaminated with fertilisers and pesticides.

Those arrested are accused variously of extortion, possessing illegal weapons, grievous bodily harm and waste trafficking.


The ring was lead by a Claudio Carbonaro, a gangster who was “responsible for atrocious crimes in the 1980s and 90s, including over 60 murders”, police said.

After turning police witness, Carbonaro returned in 2013 to Sicily where he took over a historic mafia clan and launched the extremely lucrative trafficking in contaminated plastics.

The crackdown followed a four-year probe after the seizure in Rome of shoes made of toxic materials. The investigation revealed plastic waste was being collected in warehouses in Sicily and shipped to China, only to return to Italy as footwear.

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New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”