Where does the Mafia get their explosives? If you’re in Europe, it might be from an Italian freight ship that was sunk in 1941 by a submarine.
The Italian freighter Laura Cosulich was torpedoed in 1941 by the submarine HMS Upholder as it travelled towards Libya. Since then, the wreckage has remained at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, 150 feet underwater off the Calabrian coast on the southwestern tip the Italian peninsula. According to official documents, the ship had set sail from Venice carrying fabrics, spirits and machine tools.
After the sunken hull was located in the 1970s, it was discovered that 1,500 tons of TNT and other military supplies for fascist troops in northern Africa were hidden amid the cargo. The finding didn’t go unnoticed by the Ndrangheta, the local mafia syndicate, which has since become Europe’s largest drug cartel.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, explosives from the Laura Cosulich were often seized by anti-Mafia police targeting Calabrian clans, suggesting Mafia divers had been retrieving large quantities of TNT from the wreckage.
The ship became infamously known as the mobs underwater explosives depot. As recently as February 2015, eight people were jailed for trafficking nitroglycerine from the freighter, with anti-Mafia prosecutor Cafiero de Raho describing it as the “Ndrangheta bombs supermarket”.
To put the cargo out of criminals reach, a plan was subsequently launched by authorities. After months of planning, Italian Navy divers successfully sealed off access to the Laura Cosulichs’ hold with concrete bags and an iron cage. It took officers 67 hours of working underwater, spread over dozens of 50-minute dives, to completely seal off the cargo. Conditions were very difficult at more than 50m in depth, said Admiral Eduardo Serra. De Raho said it was a great result in the fight against organized crime.