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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 in Genoa, following its reopening for traffic in August 2020. It was built after the deadly collapse of a viaduct in 2018. (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

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

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