From Congo to South America, Iran’s nuclear connection


A magistrate investigates in Italy, in the interceptions the role of industrialists, military, ambassadors and first level politicians involved in offenses that go beyond corruption emerges. There is talk of trafficking in radioactive materials. But the CIA seizes the file and the magistrate dies.

Special for Africa ExPress
Monica Mistretta
February 11, 2020

It is May 2011 and one of the many investigations has opened in Rome on corruption: anomalies in tenders, lucrative supplies that always end up in the same hands and on which we must now shed some light. Of course, there is a lot of money at stake, € 100 million, but Deputy Prosecutor Alberto Caperna has already followed several procedures that have caused a sensation: he is good and prepared. He is a magistrate who has learned to go even when the names involved are important.

Caperna is investigating Omb Roma: between 2008 and 2010 the company was awarded almost all the contracts for the supply of waste collection means of the Ama, the municipalized Spa which operates in the environmental services sector on behalf of Roma Capitale.

Omb Roma is not a small company: works as a Omb International dealership in Brescia which in turn has sister companies in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Holland, the United States. And then there is also a company in Santiago de Chile, Themac, which distributes its products exclusively throughout Latin America: from Brazil to Uruguay, to Venezuela by Hugo Chavez.

And there is a name that occurs frequently on the boards of directors of all these companies: that of Fabio Mascialino. It is his family who founded Omb many years earlier in Brescia, a giant that produces bins, sweepers and compactors for waste. While Caperna is investigating in Rome, Mascialino has left Italy for a year to move to Chile, where he founded Themac in 2010. Not that the links with Italy are a thing of the past: the industrialist in 2016 still appears as vice president of Omb Roma. As for the parent company, Omb International, Mascialino has not officially held any positions since 2006: in 2009 Omb International, in a composition with creditors, passed for 10 million euros to the municipality of Brescia. A juniper of companies and businesses in which the assistant prosecutor Alberto Caperna manages to move with extreme ease from the first days of the investigation.

The case is complex and the names at stake are many. For this reason, the power of attorney decides to start the wiretapping: the abyss opens up. Involved in the investigation, Italian politicians and entrepreneurs begin to talk about some executives, industrial and military active in Latin America. Listening to the wiretapping, the investigators are faced with an attempt to sell illegal Argentine uranium to Venezuela. A traffic in which Uruguayan soldiers are also involved and which has Iran as its final destination. The CIA gets its hands on the file of the Rome prosecutor’s office, who takes possession of it and secret it: the illegal sale is blocked.

This photo released on 5 November 2019 by the Iranian atomic energy organization, our centrifuges of the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, in central Iran (credit Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

It is an Argentine journalist, Román Lejtman, who follows the intricate turn of interceptions and business that follows the Roman investigations and has Latin America as its protagonist. At the center is Fabio Mascialino. The Italian businessman is in relationship with an Uruguayan officer, Gerónimo Cardozo and his brother-in-law Fernando Noitsch, former director of the garbage collection services of the municipality of Montevideo, in Uruguay: the conversations between the three are systematically intercepted. In charge of everything in Venezuela would be Julio Montes, the country’s former ambassador to Bolivia and Cuba. Some interceptions refer to Iran, the possibility of smuggling radioactive waste in the country and the uranium enrichment process in Argentina: the procedure that leads to the construction of an atomic bomb. It is not clear whether compactors and bins can be used to transport materials. Montes died of natural death in 2017.

It was not the first time an illegal uranium trade touched Italy. In the past there had even been a predictable African shore, when in the late 1990s two uranium bars had been seized in the hands of the Italian mafia stolen from the nuclear power plant in Kinshasa, Congo. An episode that, like that of 2011, had had no follow-up, except for the arrest in 2007 of the Atomic Energy Commissioner in Congo, Fortunat Lumu, accused of illegal uranium trafficking.

A small one megawatt rector for scientific use was built in the late 1950s in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo-K, on ​​the university campus. At the end of the 1970s, eight uranium bars disappeared from the plant, two of which were found in Genoa. It was thought that a criminal gang linked to the Mafia or the ‘Ndrangheta was organizing the theft

Among the most incredible aspects of this story, still unknown, is that in the midst of the Roman investigations on the Omb and with the telephone interceptions in progress we find the name of Fabio Mascialino in the list of Chilean entrepreneurs who participate in an official lunch of the highest level: the one that takes place on June 6, 2012 in Santiago del Chile at the presidential palace of the Coin in the presence of the King of Spain Juan Carlos, his Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. Mascialino is truly one that matters.

Deputy Prosecutor Alberto Caperna, after having handed over to others the part of the file which has now been secreted, he will resume ordinary investigations on the Ama and the OMB in Rome. But he will not be able to do it for much longer: he will die of a heart attack at the age of 61 in October 2012. The autopsy, requested immediately by the family after his death, will only reconfirm death from natural causes.

Since then, the curtain has fallen on the story. Omb International in January 2016, just when the agreement on Iranian nuclear power came into force, was transferred by the Municipality of Brescia to the BTE group. Many say that Mascialino, meanwhile one of the best clients of Omb with his orders from South America, is still a very influential person within the company.

At the beginning of January 2020, Iran announced that it had abandoned the restrictions provided for in the nuclear agreement: the number of operational centrifuges and the percentage of uranium enrichment are no longer bound by limits imposed by the international community. Of the thousands of articles that have appeared in all languages, few have wondered who and which countries provided Tehran with materials and technologies to develop the nuclear program. Nobody has ever mentioned the burning issue that belonged to Alberto Caperna. Everything’s quiet.

Monica Mistretta
[email protected]

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