Venice mayor quits following illegal payment allegations

Giorgio Orsoni was released from house arrest after a wide-reaching investigation into bribery

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The Independent Online

Venice’s mayor has stepped down from his post following a probe into illegal financing and corruption that resulted in more than 30 people being arrested.

Giorgio Orsoni - in office since March 2010 – was part of a larger group investigated for an alleged slush fund used to bribe officials for the construction of flood defences.

He was placed under house arrest on 4 June, but was freed on Thursday and returned to work under a plea deal in which he accepted a four-month sentence.

A number of officials who called for his resignation overnight had their call answered.

Orsoni, 67, told a news conference that there had been “opportunistic and hypocritical reactions” railed against him since his arrest, including from some in his own centre-left Democratic Party.

He added that he was resigning "with great sadness, convinced I have always operated in the interests of Venice and its citizens."

He denies any misconduct, claiming he was unaware that any donations to his election campaign in 2010 were illegal and that other party officials handled the campaign's finance on his behalf.

The allegations relate to a consortium undertaking construction of the city’s MOSE flood barrier – a €5billion project – which is alleged to have funnelled thousands of pounds into the pockets of numerous officials. Orsoni, a Venetian who was formerly a lawyer, is accused of receiving €560,000, according to Reuters.

The mobile barriers, which began construction in 2003, are being implemented to try and protect the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ from ever-rising tides and flooding.

Orsoni, who was also given a €15,000 fine, is unlikely to serve time in prison as it’s such a short sentence and he has a previously clean record. A snap election will now be held in the city.

Additional reporting by agencies