Tunisian Former Minister Jailed Over Toxic Waste Scandal

A former environment minister of Tunisia has been sentenced to three years in jail for his role in the illegal import of 280 containers of waste from Italy, according to local media in the capital, Tunis.

Mustapha Aroui and several ministry officials were sacked from their jobs in 2020 following an investigation into how the waste had been imported.

Aroui was arrested in December 2020.

Tunis allows the importation of plastic waste for recycling. However, the import of domestic rubbish is strictly illegal.

Earlier this week, a Tunis court sentenced Aroui and three others to three years each in prison.

A former ministry employee was given a 10-year jail term, while another suspect who is on the run was sentenced in absentia to 15 years.

The whereabouts of the manager of the import firm remain unknown. A further six people were acquitted.

‘Tunisia is not Italy’s dump’

The containers were imported from the Campania region in southern Italy by a Tunisian company that falsely claimed that they contained plastic for recycling, rather than household waste.

The containers sat for months in the port of Sousse, but 213 of them were finally returned to Italy in February last year after a deal between the two countries.

Consultations are ongoing over the fate of the remainder, which were damaged in a fire in December.

The company had signed a five-million-euro deal to dispose of up to 120,000 tonnes of waste.

The case shone a spotlight on the global trade in waste, which continues despite regulations aimed at preventing rich countries from dumping their hazardous refuse in poorer countries.

The scandal sparked angry protests in Tunisia, with locals objecting to their country being used as Italy’s “dumping ground”.

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