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Venice mayor resigns over flood-barrier fraud scandal

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-13

Venice's Mayor Giorgio Orsoni resigned Friday amid an investigation into charges that he used public funds embezzled from a flood barrier project worth billions of euros to finance his 2010 election campaign.

The left-wing mayor stepped down a day after being released from house arrest after accepting a four-month-long prison sentence in a plea agreement.

Prosecutors accused Orsoni of benefiting from the embezzlement of public funds slated for a flood barrier project designed to save the city from rising sea levels. The project began in 2003 but has been repeatedly delayed and is now set to be completed in 2016.

Orsoni was arrested along with nine other politicians and business leaders in a fraud investigation involving around 100 people, including a retired top police general.

Police said they had traced some €20 million ($27 million) in kickbacks from contractors for the "Mose" (Moses) project that were transferred into foreign bank accounts and allegedly used for funding political parties.

Orsoni admitted to accepting some of the funds but said it was his Democratic Party (PD) that had advised him to do so, just as other mayors had done before him.

"I have made many enemies and maybe this is the price I'm paying," he said on his release from house arrest.

"I couldn't know that an illegal system was used" for the 2010 campaign, he said.

Orsoni was largely abandoned by the leading tiers of his party and on Friday said he was "bitter" over how the party responded to the allegations.

"What really makes me bitter is the PD's unacceptable behaviour, the superficial way they have treated this affair," he was quoted as saying by Italian media.

Debora Serracchiani, deputy leader of the PD, and regional secretary Roger Menech released a joint statement saying they were "sorry from a human point of view  for Giorgio Orsoni... but have come to the conviction that the conditions for him to continue as mayor of Venice no longer exist".

Orsoni's resignation will become official in 20 days.

The Venice scandal is the latest surrounding a major public works project in Italy.

Similar investigations were launched into the construction of the Milan Expo 2015, the post-quake reconstruction in L'Aquila and preparations for the G8 summit in 2009.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-06-13

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