Thursday

27th Feb 2020

Mayor of Venice arrested over EU-funded project

  • (Photo: Abraham Puthoor)

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, and 35 other people were arrested Wednesday (4 June) on corruption charges linked to a project co-funded by the EU.

Orsoni was placed under house arrest as 300 police officers carried out raids to seize €40 million in assets after a three-year investigation into corruption and political bribes.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The prosecutors' charge is that construction contractors created a €25 million fund for kickbacks to politicians overseeing the Moses flood barrier – a €5.5 billion project aimed at keeping Venice safe from floods.

The project is partly funded by the EU – €1.5 billion had been earmarked for this project by the European Investment Bank.

Investigators said they followed a complex cash trail between companies and politicians that passed through offshore accounts.

"As the investigation continued, it emerged that most of these funds were used to buy political power ... and to bribe senior public officials," the prosecutors said in a statement.

Orsoni's lawyer said the charges were "hardly credible" but a former mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, confirmed there was little accountability on the project. "I said it a million times but no one listened," he said.

The main constructor in the Moses project, Mantovani, has also been charged with fraud and was suspected of infiltration by Mafia in connection to another EU-funded project in the proximity of Venice – a motorway bypass around the city of Mestre.

Mantovani settled with the Italian fiscal authorities for a €6 million fine in December, allowing the EIB and the EU commission to continue funding the Mestre project.

But the new arrests in Venice may put the funding on hold.

"We are still gathering information necessary to form a view," a spokesperson for the EIB said in an email. The bank notes that it was the Italian ministry of infrastructure who "certified all the expenses" reimbursed by the EIB. It added that the total amount of loans signed to date is €1.255 million.

Transparency campaigners are not satisfied, however.

"The EIB is effectively handing out cheques backed by public money to a corrupt system," said Elena Gerebizza from Counter Balance, an NGO monitoring the activities of the EIB.

MEPs complain of 'no action' on Hungary and Poland

Five European Parliamentary groups warned EU member states that if they don't act on breaches of EU rules and values in Poland and Hungary, the EU's integrity and credibility will be undermined.

Insight

How big is Germany's far-right problem?

The Hanau shooting was a national wake-up call to the scale of far-right extremism in Germany, from violent individuals to political hate speech.

Exclusive

Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs

Western Balkan secret services have handed over more the 250 alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters since last summer - fed into the EU's police database by the Czech Republic, according to a confidential document seen by EUobserver.

New EU public prosecutor has four staff for 3,000 cases

Laura Kovesi who heads the new European Public Prosecutor's Office, tasked to tackle fraud linked to VAT, money laundering, and corruption across the EU, warned she is dangerously understaffed and underfunded.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. WHO on coronavirus in Europe: 'be prepared'
  2. Frontex hits activist pair with €24,000 legal bill
  3. Turkish jets keep violating Greek airspace
  4. 'Fragmented' Slovakia goes to polls amid corruption woes
  5. EU development policy needs a fresh start
  6. EU critical of China on Swedish dissident publisher
  7. NGOs urge EU to tackle meat consumption 'problem'
  8. Coronavirus: voices from a quarantined Italian town

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us