sabato 14 giugno 2014

Venice mayor quits in anger amid bribery probe

Govt prepares corruption crackdown, new powers for graft czar

(ANSA) - Venice, June 13 - Giorgio Orsoni quit as Venice mayor Friday in the MOSE flood-barriers graft scandal under pressure from the ruling Democratic Party (PD) that backed him, just as the government prepared to unveil tough measures to crack down on corruption. Orsoni, who was being probed for illegal financing of political parties over his 2010 city election campaign, was released from house arrest Thursday after reaching a plea bargain with prosecutors, accepting a four-month suspended jail term, which judges must approve.

As he tendered his resignation Friday, Orsoni revoked the powers of his city council. "It's nothing against any individual official," he said in a written address, while still calling out "opportunist and hypocritical reactions" to his arrest, "even from some members of city council".

Just a day earlier, Orsoni said nothing would force him to step down, because there was "no objective reason". "I have nothing to reproach myself for," added Orsoni at a news conference. "I couldn't have known that an illegal system was used (for the 2010 campaign)," he said, adding that he has assigned fund-raising to third parties. "I have made many enemies and maybe this is the price I'm paying".

Orsoni was among 35 people arrested earlier this month over the MOSE probe, in a group of 100 suspects under investigation. These include former Veneto governor and ex-minister Giancarlo Galan, currently a Senator for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party, and Altero Matteoli, a former centre-right environment and transport minister. Prosecutors are looking at allegations a corruption scam saw 25 million euros in taxpayer money funnelled to political campaigns and away from MOSE, a 5.5-billion-euro system of retractable dikes set to be operable in 2016 after decades of delays. The MOSE scandal broke last week, less than a month after other high-profile arrests over alleged corruption on contracts for Milan Expo 2015. Premier Matteo Renzi, whose center-left PD had pressured Orsoni to step down, has vowed to pass legislation to combat graft after the case, including a move to give greater powers to national anti-corruption chief Raffaele Cantone.

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