Thursday

26th May 2016

EU-funded project in Italy suspected of mafia links

  • Mestre is the mainland part of Venice (Photo: Marc Gautier)

Three NGOs on Wednesday (22 January) filed an official complaint with the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, demanding an investigation into an EU-sponsored motorway in Italy, where construction firms are suspected of fraud and infiltration by the mafia.

The project at stake is the Passante di Mestre motorway - a bypass around the northern Italian city of Mestre, just across the bay from Venice.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Last year, it received a loan of €350 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to refinance the debt accumulated by the project since its start, in 2003.

Initially budgeted at €750 million, the motorway has faced delays and the cost has almost doubled to €1.3 billion.

In March 2011, the project was criticised by the Italian Court of Auditors for lack of public supervision and the risk of infiltration of organised crime via subcontractors.

In addition, Italian prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into fraud which led to the arrest of four people in February 2013, prior to the EIB releasing the loan.

Twenty more arrests were carried out last year, including the CEO of one of the main subcontractors, as well as police agents and former spies.

In October 2013, the anti-mafia authorities took into custody the CEO of FIP Industriale, another member of the highway consortium, accusing him of alleged links to criminal organisations and false registration of assets.

“This case raises real concerns about the due diligence carried out by the [EIB] bank and its inability to withdraw from projects where alleged corruption has been detected,” says Xavier Sol, director of Counter Balance, one of the three NGOs flagging up the case.

For its part, the European Commission is considering the project for co-financing under so-called project bonds - an initiative launched two years ago redeploying unused EU money and EIB loans for stimulating the economy via large infrastructure projects.

But the three NGOs are asking the EU to halt all funding to the scheme.

“We hear for years now that 'it is Europe demanding this project.’ Today Italian citizens demand Europe to investigate the direct responsibilities of its own institution," Rebecca Rovoletto from Opzione Zero, a civic association opposing the motorway, said.

"Local committees and groups have publicly denounced the opacity of how local politicians and business leaders have been managing the region. We call on the EU to support our demand for more democratic control over the use of public finance instead of backing the interests of local baronies,” she added.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. World VisionDeclares the World Humanitarian Summit a Positive Step in a Longer Journey to Ending Need
  2. EJCPresident Dr. Moshe Kantor on Brexit and the Jewish Question
  3. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  4. Innovators Under 35Meet MIT Technology Review's Innovators Under 35 Award Recipients from Belgium on 25 May, 6pm
  5. Open EuropeJoin the Brussels Brexit Debate on Wednesday, 25 May at 5:00 PM
  6. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  7. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  8. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  11. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan
  12. Belgrade Security ForumOpen Call for Applications! Join the Events Team at the 6th Belgrade Security Forum.

Latest News

  1. Greek debt deal doesn't solve the problem
  2. EU to relax online shopping, but not film or music
  3. European pioneers battle air pollution in the courts
  4. ECB: Populist surge is bad for business 
  5. EU states 'complicit' in Egypt repression
  6. Privacy whiz Max Schrems set to challenge other big firms
  7. 'Rude' ex-commissioner blanks MEPs' diesel probe
  8. EU and IMF agree debt relief for Greece