Expo president in €1m tax evasion probe

Italy's financial police have seized over €1 million from the president of the Expo world fair, Diana Bracco, as part of an investigation into tax evasion and embezzlement at her healthcare company.

Expo president in €1m tax evasion probe
"No Expo" is written on the ground during a demonstration in downtown Milan on April 30th 2015. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Concluding investigations in Milan, Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said the €1,042,000 seized amounted to the total sum of tax evasion at the Bracco healthcare firm.

As president of the company, Diana Bracco is accused of evading her tax bill by issuing fake invoices for more than €3 million between 2008 and 2013.

The funds were allegedly used for real estate and boats used by Bracco and her husband Roberto De Silva, who died in 2012, Ansa said.

Pietro Mascherpa, president of Bracco Real Estate, is also said to be involved in the probe. Architects Marco Pollastri and Simona Calcinaghi, from the firm Archilabo, are also accused of playing a role in the scam.

Bracco’s lawyer, Giuseppe Bana, said the investigation regards business activities which are not of a criminal nature. “There wasn’t any tax fraud,” he was quoted as saying.

The investigation will come as a blow to Expo, the world fair which kicked off earlier this month following a series of financial scandals.

There were a string of arrests last year over bribery allegations regarding construction contracts at Expo, which amounted to an estimated total of €1.35 billion.

In March Italy’s pavilion at the Milan event was revealed as being one of the numerous public works allegedly targeted by corrupt businessmen and officials. The nationwide probe led to 51 people being put under investigation and the resignation of Maurizio Lupi, Italy’s transport and infrastructure minister.

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Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy’s anti-corruption chief

The head of Italy’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ANAC), Raffaele Cantone, warned on Wednesday of the potential for the mafia to infiltrate the reconstruction of Genoa’s Morandi bridge.

Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy’s anti-corruption chief
Screenshot of Raffaele Cantone speaking at a parliamentary hearing on the Genoa Decree on October 10, 2018.

Speaking at a parliamentary hearing to discuss amendments to the newly released “Genoa decree” which will govern the area’s reconstruction, Cantone raised concerns that the decree contains “unprecedented” provisions which allow Genoa’s newly-appointed reconstruction commissioner, Marco Bucci, to bypass Italian civil laws and “to act with absolute and total freedom, subject only to the mandatory principles of the European Union and of course the principals of the constitution”.

In particular, the ANAC chief expressed consternation at the fact that the decree exempts the commissioner from having to follow Italy’s Anti-Mafia Code, highlighting that this presents a “concrete risk” that the mafia could extend its tentacles into the reconstruction efforts.

Cantone added that although the mafia is not widely present in the Liguria region in Italy’s north where Genoa is based, they are attempting to expand into the territory, and construction is one of the industries on which they are known to have a tight grip.

READ ALSO: Genoa bridge collapse: The mafia's role

The Morandi motorway viaduct collapsed during a storm on August 14th, plunging 150 feet into the ground and sending 43 people to their deaths.

The ultimate cause of the collapse is still undetermined pending the conclusion of a state investigation, but the bridge’s operator, Autostrade per l’Italia, has fallen under heavy suspicion, while others have raised the question of whether the mafia was involved in the bridge’s initial construction.

The bridge was built out of reinforced concrete during Italy’s post-war reconstruction boom in the 1960’s, a time when mafia infiltration of the construction sector was rampant.

Rescuers at work amid rubble and wreckage after the collapse of a section of the Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa on August 15, 2018. Handout / Vigili del Fuoco / AFP.

A common practice during the period was to mix large quantities of cheap sand and water into the concrete with comparatively small amounts of cement, significantly weakening the raw construction materials.

Speaking on the political TV talk show Agorà, Italy’s far right interior minister and co-deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said he broadly agreed with Cantone’s concerns about mafia infiltration, but that he disagreed with his fears over the extraordinary powers granted to Bucci.

“Exceptional interventions are need to match an exceptional event: if you follow the Procurement Code, bureaucracy, and the European tender rules, we’ll still be discussing the bridge in five years’ time,” the minister said.