Mustapha Aroui was arrested along with 22 others after the discovery in July of 200 containers of rotting household and medical waste.
After the attempted importation of household and hospital waste from Italy, Tunisia’s environment minister was arrested.
Mustapha Aroui was dismissed from his post and arrested on Sunday, along with several other individuals, including senior customs officials, members of the Agence Nationale de Gestion des Déchets (ANGed) waste management agency and a Tunisian diplomat based in Naples.
In total, 23 individuals were investigated for helping to import household and medical waste from southern Italy, in breach of Tunisian environmental legislation.
Aroui did not comment on the allegations publicly.
In July, in the port city of Sousse, more than 200 containers storing plastic waste for recycling were seized.
It was discovered by customs officials that the cargo consisted of rotting household and medical waste transported from Italy for disposal in Tunisia, a nation already facing increasing difficulties in the management of its own waste.
When news of the shipment broke in November, activists protested outside the port. An official inquiry was promised by the government.
After revelations of a potential conflict of interest over his involvement in waste management firms, the Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh, resigned in July. Any conflict of interest was rejected by him.
In the current situation, Fakhfakh has denied any involvement.
Waste management in Tunisia has emerged as an increasingly lucrative sector for private investment, with the public paying little attention to many companies’ activities or their performance.
Ines Labiadh, coordinator of environmental justice at the Tunisian Economic and Social Rights Forum, said the case sheds light on a wider network of environmental management ‘failures and mismanagement’ within Tunisia, where government agencies suffer from a lack of investment or are hindered by corruption.
The environment has become easy prey to individuals and economic actors for whom different sectors are highly lucrative,”The environment has become easy prey for individuals and economic actors for whom various sectors are extremely lucrative,”
For a reply, ANGed and Tunisia’s Ministry of Environment were contacted.