Public Officials among 63 arrested in major Italian mafia fraud

Italian police have identified 63 people, including 11 public officials, involved in a crime ring associated with over 100 million euros ($111 million) of public works tenders, including EU funds.

According to a statement from the Reggio Calabria Financial police, the operation, codenamed “Waterfront”, focused on the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in the southern part of the country. The allegations include abuse of office, public tender fraud, and bribery.

The statement also said, “The aim of the criminal association was to guarantee the control of the entire system of public tenders issued by Calabrian contracting entities.”

The investigation has led to the seizure of the financial assets of 45 suspects, the corporate assets of 36 companies, and 14 people have been placed under house arrest. Mostly in the south of the country but also around Tuscany and Rome.

According to investigators, several companies made up the cartel who were “capable of winning – through auction disturbances facilitated by the mafia – at least 22 public tenders, in systematic fraud against the Calabria Region and the European Community.”

The tenders date back many years. Seven of them between 2007 and 2013 involved 42 million euros ($47 million) of European Union funds assigned to redevelop waterfront and urban areas in the southern area of Gioia Tauro.

Police said their investigation also revealed “Systemic fraud” in other related public supplies contracts.

Besides the obvious accounting discrepancies, investigators found that the quality of the work was not acceptable. Contractors did not do quality tests on asphalt that was to be used in various underground parking lots and sports complexes. They also found that materials of much lower quality than what was outlined in the contract were being used for sections of highway.

Based in Calabria, the most southern region of Italy, the ‘Ndrangheta has easily surpassed Cosa Nostra as Italy’s most powerful and influential mafia group.

334 ‘Ndrangheta members, including a former MP and a police colonel, were arrested in December as part of a major police sting operation.

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