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.
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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.