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Italian Authorities Find Sunken Ship Suspected of Carrying Toxic Chemicals

Italian authorities have found the wreck of a ship believed to have been sunk by the Calabrian mafia. An informer has alleged the mob sunk the ship carrying 120 barrels of toxic waste, one of more than 30 such vessels authorities think may lie on the seabed off the southern Italian coast.

Italian authorities believe the ship found about 500 meters underwater and 28 kilometers off the southern coast of Calabria may be the Cunsky, one of 32 vessels carrying toxic material that was allegedly sunk by the mob in a lucrative disposal racket.

Authorities used a robot submarine with a video camera to film the 110-meter vessel and its cargo. Pictures showed at least one barrel had fallen from its damaged hull and lay empty on the seabed.

Calabrian prosecutor Bruno Giordano said the contents of the barrels have still not been ascertained.

He said one of the barrels appears to have a particular closing mechanism, a strengthened closure in the top part.

Giordano says former mobster Francesco Fonti, from the Calabrian-based mafia the 'ndrangheta, has claimed the mob sank hundreds of barrels of toxic waste, some of which may contain radioactive elements.

Fonti told authorities the location of the sunken ship and how he was involved in the explosion that brought the Cunsky down in 1992 and with two other ships carrying similar cargoes.

The prosecutor, who is based in the Calabrian town of Paola, said he has spoken to the ministry about health concerns. He said it is urgent to intervene with adequate measures.

Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have been compiling lists during the past few decades of ships that may have been carrying toxic waste and have disappeared off Italy and Greece.

Investigators and environmentalists say the introduction of tighter environmental legislation in the 1980s helped the mob rake in millions of dollars as they illegally disposed of the waste for northern Italian companies.