Conservation Controversies News Italy

Corruption crackdown in earthquake-damaged Italian town

L’Aquila’s mayor resigns and says he feels “betrayed” by those under investigation for the misuse of reconstruction funds from the EU

Massimo Cialente, the former mayor of L'Aquila, says he feels betrayed by those under investigation for corruption

An ongoing corruption investigation into reconstruction projects in the Italian town of L’Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake in April 2009, has led to the arrest of four civil servants and the resignation of the town’s mayor.

Four people have been placed under house arrest and a further four are being formally investigated. Most are civil servants who were part of the local council at the time of the earthquake, including the town’s deputy mayor, Roberto Riga, who has resigned from his post while maintaining his innocence. They stand accused of false accounting and taking bribes to award reconstruction and conservation contracts, reportedly for a total of around €3m.

The town’s mayor, Massimo Cialente, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing, resigned from his post and held a press conference earlier this week in which he said he felt “betrayed” by those under investigation. In September last year, he was crucial in securing the long overdue sum of €985m from the Italian government to help rebuild the largely destroyed historic centre.

This latest embarrassment comes after years of accusations of political corruption and mismanaged reconstruction funds in L’Aquila. At the end of last year, Soren Bo Søndergaard, a Danish member of the European Parliament’s committee for budgetary control, released a damning report that criticised the misuse of €497m from the European Union for rebuilding (The Art Newspaper, January 2014, p7). The report is due for review in March, and if the European Commission decides that the money was badly spent, it could ask the Italian government to give back more than €300m.

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