Mafia shakedown: EU relief funds for L'Aquila earthquake 'misused' by criminals
The EU rapporteur, Soren Bo Sondergaard, said in the report that
there was evidence that some of the 494,000-euro donation was
paid to construction companies with "direct or indirect ties
to organized crime." Apart from cases of fraud, wanted
criminals were discovered at a factory run by one of the
Fears that taxpayers’ money could end up in deep mafia pockets have been circulating for a long time, and eventually appear to have been realized. The EU had made several hundred million euro available for the region from its Solidarity Fund, while the direct damage caused by the earthquake has been estimated at over 10 billion euro.
The earthquake which hit the medieval mountain town on April 6, 2009, killed over 300 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
Investigators have also slammed the quality of the
newly-constructed accommodation, with unhealthy and shoddily
constructed homes dangerous to live in, meanwhile some of them
are said to be overpriced by more than two-and-a-half times. The
authors of the report reproved the Italian authorities and the
European Union Commission in Brussels for negligence to ensure
that EU taxpayers' money was well spent.
The entire town, built in the 13th century and mirroring the city plan of Jerusalem, became uninhabitable. L'Aquila is still more like a ghost town. Fifty-five neighboring municipalities were also affected by the earthquake; some were completely destroyed. Authorities said poor building standards were to blame for the death toll.
In 2010 and 2011, the Prosecutor of Aquila opened several enquiries into the misuse of the funds for emergency and reconstruction by criminal organizations. Back then the prosecutor national substitute of the National Anti-Mafia Department, Olga Capasso, noted that among the problems related to combating organized crime, "Aquila is one of the biggest problems at a national level."