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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 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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