The Italian media reported today that two former Costa Cruises employees have told prosecutors investigating the Costa Concordia disaster that officers “took drugs” while on duty and molested female staff members.
One woman, a nurse identified only as Valentina B. and who worked with under fire Costa Concordia skipper Francesco Schettino, claimed he regularly “used women as goods to be bartered with”.
Valentina described how she had been on the liner Atlantica with Francesco Schettino, 52, who is accused of abandoning the Costa Concordia after he steered it on to rocks and left 32 people dead, for a month between January and February 2010.
The woman’s revelations to investigating prosecutor Francesco Verusio, were published by La Stampa newspaper and she said of her experiences with Genoa based Costa: “I found corruption, prostitution and drugs.
“Do not tell me it’s my word against them – I saw directly with my own eyes senior officers take cocaine.
“To prove it all you need to do is carry out an examination of their hair.”
Valentina’s claims come just days after a cocaine test on strands of Francesco Schettino’s hair tested positive for cocaine but his legal team has asked for a second examination as they dispute the results and he has insisted that he does not drink or take drugs.
The nurse, who worked for Costa Cruises for a total of seven months between October 2009 and May 2010, made her allegations in more than 5,000 pages of prosecution documents.
They form part of the case against Francesco Schettino who is facing charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship when passengers were still onboard and failing to communicate with maritime authorities.
The nurse went on to claim that “crew members were reduced to virtual slaves by the officers” adding that she left the company after receiving threats and that she was “still owed money”.
Another former employee, identified only as Mary G. said: “The crew and officers are very superficial when it come to dealing with an emergency. I only worked for Costa for two months in 2010 but a lot of the time officers and crew were drunk.
“At parties a lot of the time we would ask ourselves <<If there is an emergency who is going to save the ship?>>
“I was also molested by a crew member at a lunch once after he had taken drugs. They made me sign doctored work sheets and time sheets. I am taking action against them and it will be in court soon.”
On Saturday a preliminary hearing involving Francesco Schettino is due to take place in Grosseto with dozens of passengers from the doomed Costa Concordia expected to attend, forcing the venue to be moved from the town’s court to the theatre which has extra seating capacity.
Francesco Schettino was placed under investigation after it emerged he had recklessly altered the Costa Concordia’s course so that he could carry out a sail by salute of the Italian island of Giglio in January but the ship which was carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew hit rocks which tore a 70 metre hole in the hull.
The vessel is now currently lying partially submerged on rocks just outside Giglio harbor while salvage experts continue to pump off more than 500,000 gallons of heavy duty diesel from the ship’s tanks.
Costa Cruises issued a statement which did not respond specifically to the allegations made but which said: “On board our ships there are strict safety and surveillance measures concerning drugs possession.
“It is not allowed in any way to bring on board, possess, trade or use narcotics, drugs or psychotropic drugs.
“Whichever crew member who possesses, uses drugs or however make some traffic are submitted to disciplinary provisions and disembarked.
“On board there are checks and preventive actions to discourage such behaviours. Both in navigation and in port.
“It is not allowed to consume alcohol in quantity that can impairs the capacity to perform the on board duties. The crew on guard must abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages at least 4 hours before the start of their shift.”