More to come in Venice flood barrier scandal

June 09, 2014 - 1:24:30 am

ROME: An Italian investigation that last week named 35 suspects in a massive graft scheme to cheat the “Moses” flood barrier project in Venice is far from over, the lead prosecutor in the case said yesterday.

A court issued arrest warrants last week for suspects including Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, a close aide to former Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti and a former governor of the Veneto region, Giancarlo Galan. All have denied any wrongdoing.

They are suspected of having engineered a complicated series of kickbacks in the more-than 5 billion euro project designed to protect the canal city with a flood barrier named after the biblical prophet said to have parted the waters of the Red Sea.

“The investigation has not ended with the arrest warrants,” lead prosecutor Carlo Nordio said in an interview with Il Messaggero daily. “We are pursuing several investigative lines,” he said without providing any details.

The kickbacks for Moses, a project begun a decade ago to isolate the Venice Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea at high tides, apparently involve far larger sums than the “Bribesville” scandals that rocked Italian politics two decades ago. “The figures are stratospheric,” Nordio said.

Italian media on Saturday reported the kickbacks may have gobbled up as much as ¤1bn ($1.36bn), almost 20 percent of the state funds so far spent on the project.

The arrests came less than a month after a similar corruption scandal linked to the Milan Expo 2015 project, meaning two of the country’s biggest public infrastructure projects are suspected of being rife with corruption.

The scandals involving politicians, administrators, police and even members of the secret services have prompted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to add anti-corruption measures to his already ambitious programme of economic reforms.