Dirty Hands on Italy’s Expo

On 1 March 1993, the former administrator of the Italian Communist Party, Primo Greganti was arrested for accepting a 621 million Lire (about USD390.000) bribe. A few months earlier, another high level politician from the Christian Democratic party, Gianstefano Frigerio, had admitted in court that he received bribes for his political party. These two men were part of the so called ‘Mani Puliti’ scandal (Bribesville) that started in Milan, but in a few months grew to involve the whole country. At that time several corruption scandals involving all the main political parties and the business community came to light.

Yesterday, 8 of May 2014, only 21 years after the above scandals, 6 people, including Primo Greganti and Gianstefano Frigerio, were arrested for suspected fraud in connection with the assignment of building contracts for the Expo world’s fair scheduled for 2015 in Milan. The Expo is considered a great opportunity for Italy to overcome the financial crisis and clean up its image before the  world. Instead this event will be just another story of scandal and corruption.

As Transparency International Italy’s Chair, I can only emphasize the terrible situation this presents for our country, where corruption, lack of ethics, favouritism and impunity are at the core of our system.

It is very disappointing to see people arrested 21 years ago involved again in a new scandal. It shows that nothing has changed or improved in the last twenty years and corruption is so deeply-rooted into the Italian system that it is impossible to eradicate. How is it possible that people with such deviant backgrounds can be involved in such an important and strategic event such as the Expo? Were they acting on their own or in the interest of political parties or special interest groups? I think that it is legitimate to ask these questions.

Few years ago, the former Chair of Transparency International Italy and I met with the managers responsible for the tenders of the Expo to discuss how anti-corruption tools to monitor public tenders and to ensure transparency during the tenders. These are similar to the Integrity Pacts we introduced to the municipality of Milan. We also discussed the importance of defending the Expo from corruption and scandal; we agreed on the strategic importance of the Expo for Italy and the  need to strengthen the integrity of the event.

Following this meeting, nobody has never contacted us or answered our requests. Now we understand the reason.

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