EU investigators claim there is evidence that taxpayers’ money earmarked for the reconstruction of earthquake-devasted L’Aquila ended up in the hands of mobsters.
After the magnitude 6.3 quake hit the medieval mountain town on April 6, 2009, killing more than 300, the Italian and European governments began work on channeling millions into the area to reconstruct levelled homes and businesses.
But fears that mafia groups in Italy would siphon off funds appear to have been realised, according to a new report, which is particularly critical of the European Union Commission in Brussels.
In the document, Soren Bo Sondergaard, the EU rapporteur, said there was evidence that some of the €494 million donation was paid to construction companies with "direct or indirect ties" to organised crime. He said that known criminals were found at a factory run by one of the contractors.
And the quality of some of the newly-constructed accommodation in the town also came under fire. Illegal and shoddily constructed homes, using poor quality cement, are a hallmark of mafia-tainted building work. Shoddy construction was thought to be a factor in the deadly collapse of the student dormitory during the L’Acquila earthquake, which killed eight students.
Regarding the quality of houses, Massimo Cialente, mayor of L'Aquila, told the BBC: "Some of the houses built have never-ending issues and we spend lots of money repairing them."
The EU had made available 493,700 euros for the region from its Solidarity Fund. But the total needed for the reconstruction of the city and surrounding region was more than €10 billion.