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Tunisia: Sacked minister of environment arrested in Italy waste case

Tunisia's Minister of Environment Mustapha Laroui takes the oath of office during the new government swearing-in ceremony at Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on 2 September 2020. [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]
Tunisia's Minister of Environment Mustapha Laroui takes the oath of office during the new government swearing-in ceremony at Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on 2 September 2020. [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisian authorities yesterday arrested dismissed Minister of Local Affairs and Environment, Mustapha Laroui, as investigations continue into the case of importing Italian waste to the country.

In a statement, Badreddine Gammoudi, head of the Committee on Administrative Reform, Good Governance, the Fight Against Corruption and Control of Management of Public Funds said: "The former minister, Mustapha Laroui, was arrested, pending investigation into the case of importing toxic Italian waste to Tunisia."

An informed source revealed that "five senior officials of the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment were arrested to be investigated in the same case."

On Sunday, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced Laroui's dismissal without revealing the reasons behind the decision.

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A brief government statement clarified that Minister of Equipment and Housing Kamal Al-Doukh was appointed Acting Minister of Local Affairs and Environment in Laroui's place. Last July, customs authorities in the coastal city of Sousse seized toxic waste containers coming from Italy, which do not match the international standards for importing waste, sparking a wave of indignation in the country.

In November, the Tunisian Ministry of Environment decided to open an administrative investigation, after the arrival of about 280 waste containers from Italy that did not conform to the type of waste referred to in the license acquired by the private recycling company which imported them.

At the time, Mugtama reported that a local company signed a deal to import 120,000 tonnes of household waste from Italy annually for 18 billion Tunisian dinars ($6.57 billion), which prompted the judicial authorities to initiate an inquiry.

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