Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ITALY FEARS MEDIA QUAKE FUND GRAB

By Duncan Kennedy
BBC News, Rome

Fire fighters inspecting building in L'Aquila
Huge sums of money have been pledged for reconstruction

The authorities in Italy have created a special team of investigators to make sure the mafia does not get access to earthquake reconstruction money.

After the quake on 6 April, billions of dollars were pledged by the government and the European Union to rebuild homes and public buildings.

Nearly 300 people died and around 10,000 buildings were destroyed by the quake in central Italy.

The mafia has used previous disasters to siphon off money meant for victims.

One official said the mafia and similar criminal organisations would be attracted to the Abruzzo region by what he called the rivers of money flowing in to help the reconstruction.

"There is no alarm yet, but legitimate concern," said the head of Italy's anti-mafia operations, Piero Grasso. "Prevention is key," he added.

Four investigators will work to stop the mafia getting its hands on the estimated $20bn (£13.5bn) being lined up to help the area affected.

A number of people are still on trial after the mafia set up front companies following another earthquake in 1980.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that he wanted rebuilding to be completed in six months, and that he wanted to keep out speculators and the mafia.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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