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CRIME

Italy to spend billions on highways after Genoa disaster

Italy will invest some 13.6 billion euros on a multi-year plan to upgrade the safety of its highways after the 2018 Genoa bridge disaster, the transport ministry said on Friday.

Vehicles drive across the new San Giorgio bridge in Genoa, following its reopening for traffic
Vehicles drive across the new San Giorgio bridge, following its reopening for traffic, in Genoa, northern Italy on August 5, 2020. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

Motorway operator ASPI, which is moving into public hands, will foot the entire bill after signing a deal with the ministry, a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

The deal covers a period until 2038, but 2.5 billion euros are earmarked for urgent maintenance work to be completed by 2024, and another 1.2 billion euros for projects in and around Genoa.

ASPI, which stands for Autostrade per l’Italia, previously agreed to also pay 3.4 billion euros in compensation related to the bridge disaster in the northwestern port city.

Three years ago, Italy was stunned by the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, a tragedy that killed 43 people and highlighted the decaying state of national infrastructure.

It also exposed ASPI, which at the time was privately owned, to accusations that it skimped on maintenance of the bridge to maximise its profits.

A pre-trial judge is looking at various charges, including manslaughter and negligence, against 59 people investigated for the disaster, including ASPI’s former bosses.

READ ALSO: Italian police arrest six in connection with Genoa bridge collapse

At a hearing Friday, the transport ministry and the office of Prime Minister Mario Draghi joined the proceedings with a civil suit for damages, the ministry said in a statement.

ASPI used to be controlled by the Benetton family, also known for their clothing brand. After the collapse, they came under strong pressure to leave the highways business.

In June, the family’s Atlantia holding company agreed to sell its 88-percent stake in ASPI to a consortium led by Italian state investment bank CDP.

The deal is expected to be finalised over the coming months.

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CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

READ ALSO

Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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