Friday

27th Jan 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe 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.

Poland's legal fixes to collect EU funds come under fire

Unlocking the €35.4bn in grants and loans allocated for Poland as part of the EU's Covid-19 fund is key for the Law & Justice (PiS) government to boost its chances ahead of the upcoming elections in the autumn.

Opinion

Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

The director of Amnesty International Greece on the political spying scandal that now threatens to bring down prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Activists and NGO staff work with the constant fear that they are being spied on.

Poland's legal fixes to collect EU funds come under fire

Unlocking the €35.4bn in grants and loans allocated for Poland as part of the EU's Covid-19 fund is key for the Law & Justice (PiS) government to boost its chances ahead of the upcoming elections in the autumn.

Latest News

  1. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  2. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  3. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency
  4. Greek government in no-confidence vote over spying scandal
  5. The legal battle for justice against Kremlin's 'untouchables'
  6. UAE's fossil-fuelled high-tech mirage of a green future
  7. MEP harassment case sheds light on flimsy support for victims
  8. Big Agri's EU lobbying playbook on 'hunger' and a 'refugee crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us