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Fresh corruption probe hits Milan Expo 2015

(ANSA) - Milan, September 17 - A fresh corruption probe hit the works for next year's world's fair, Milan Expo 2015, on Wednesday when the commissioner in charge of the Italian pavilion was placed under investigation for suspected graft including alleged bid rigging. Italy's anti-corruption czar, Raffaele Cantone, said the official under...
Fresh corruption probe hits Milan Expo 2015
(ANSA) - Milan, September 17 - A fresh corruption probe hit the works for next year's world's fair, Milan Expo 2015, on Wednesday when the commissioner in charge of the Italian pavilion was placed under investigation for suspected graft including alleged bid rigging. Italy's anti-corruption czar, Raffaele Cantone, said the official under investigation, Antonio Acerbo, could pose a "problem".
Milan finance police on Wednesday carried out searches and seized documents after Acerbo was placed under investigation.
According to prosecutors Acerbo, 65, is accused of taking bribes to steer a 100-million-euro contract for the so-called 'Vie d'Acqua' (Waterways) project to construction magnate Enrico Maltauro in 2013. Acerbo agreed to help investigators. His lawyer, Federico Cecconi, told reporters he wanted to talk to prosecutors as soon as possible to "clear up his position".
Maltauro was placed under house arrest in May in a larger probe that led to the arrests of former Expo procurement and planning manager Angelo Paris and three others, including a former Christian Democrat MP, in connection with what prosecutors are calling the "bid rigging mafia". Acerbo, a former public manager for the city of Milan, is also the deputy Expo commissioner for infrastructural works. Finance police are also conducting searches in connection with other suspects who may have acted as intermediaries in the alleged corruption, prosecutors said. Anti-corruption czar Raffaele Cantone said Wednesday that the allegations of wrongdoing against Acerbo must be fully investigated. "For now, we only have press reports," that Milan finance police placed Acerbo under investigation on suspicion of corruption and bid rigging, said Cantone, who has special powers to supervise public contracts - including those at the World's Fair.
"At the moment, it is difficult to proceed," added Cantone, who said he planned to meet Thursday with Diana Bracco, general commissioner of the Italian Pavilion, to discuss the problem. "I also want to talk to the prosecutor handling the case as soon as possible," Cantone added. The various probes, as well as reports that several firms linked to the Ndrangheta' (Calabrian mafia) have been found to have won initial contracts, have threatened to muddy the event's image. But Premier Matteo Renzi was characteristically upbeat, responding to the graft probe reports by unveiling a new transparency site. Renzi unveiled the site on September 11, stressing that it would cover all developments. "OpenExpo, with online transparency data and information for all available, #italiariparte (#Italyrestarts)," Renzi said on Twitter. Renzi recently said on a visit to the site that he would not let those who want to see the event fail "get any satisfaction". The premier said the workers "are not just building a structure, not just pavilions, they are building and giving back pride to a country that needs it like bread". He vowed: "We'll pull it off.
We won't leave the future to the ill wishers and those who bet on failure.
We are at work and everything will be ready (for Expo's opening) on May 1, 2015". Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), called for the fair to be scrapped after the first big corruption probe. But the premier is confident the event - which focuses on nutrition, fighting hunger and one of Italy's fortes, quality food, under the theme Feeding the Planet.
Energy for life - will be "a big hit". Renzi's government has promised to root out the corruption, while remaining committed to an event that it hopes will provide a major lift for the recession-hit Italian economy. The executive gave Cantone special powers to oversee Expo, which is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors during its six-month run. "Expo will be the key to getting Italy going again," the premier said.

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