Italy repays £307mn to the EU after OLAF suspected missing money was lost via 'mafia corruption'
At a recent press conference in Brussels OLAF, the European Commission’s anti-fraud office, announced that in 2011 it had handled 463 cases of fraud which had resulted in the recovery of a record €691 million. The major contribution to this "exceptional sum" had been one particular instance of fraud, which was the €389 million recovered in the Structural Funds sector for a single case in the Calabria region of Italy which had been paid under programmes aimed at the financing of road works.
Giovanni Kessler, Director-General of OLAF, reported that OLAF had found widespread “irregularities” surrounding the repairs and upgrades to a stretch of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway blaming the Italian government for failing to ensure financial transparency. Giovanni Kessler said, "The sum has been formally recovered following investigations focusing on two separate intervention programs, spread over several years, but all concerning the Salerno-Reggio Calabria autostrada. This money had already been spent, so the Italian state is obliged to give it back to the EU with the burden subsequently falling on taxpayers." (Telegraph)
The A3 Napoli-Salerno-Reggio Calabria autostrada, which stretches 494.4 km from the south of Naples, via Salerno, to the city of Reggio Calabria at the toe of the Italian peninsula, has been plagued with problems for years. En route the motorway passes through the region of Calabria, infamous for an organised crime syndicate called the ‘Ndrangheta mafia (more powerful than the better-known Cosa Nostra of Sicily) and has been the subject of many allegations of corruption.
During the course of their investigations OLAF had discovered that most of the €389 million, itself a record figure, had been lost to fraud, through fake contracts and fictitious road works, and despite previous claims that the renovation work would be completed by 2003, they were in fact still on going and very little improvement had been experienced by road users. In fact the Italian historian, Leandra D’Antone, described the motorway as “a true Italian shame” in 2008 because of the low levels of maintenance and atrocious road conditions. Although OLAF admitted that details surrounding the motorway fraud were still sketchy there was an indication that the mafia were involve in some way and the Italian government were still conducting an investigation into mafia-related fraud.
The previous OLAF report can be read here
Last Updated (Friday, 07 September 2012 07:14)