Amid Corruption Scandal, Venice is Drowning

Venice, Italy, view of the Main Harbour in front of Saint Mark Basilica, Photo by Moyan Brenn

Venice, Italy, view of the Main Harbour in front of Saint Mark Basilica, Photo by Moyan Brenn

VENICE, Italy— Climate change and political corruption are drowning the city of Venice. As high tides flooded the city Wednesday, Mayor Giorgio Orsoni of Venice was placed under house arrest.

According to the ANSA News Agency, Orsoni is officially accused of corruption, extortion and money laundering involving a public works project for underwater barriers that would prevent the city’s intensifying flooding.

The five billion euro public works project, dubbed the “Moses barriers” has been planned since 1966, but began just eleven years ago. As the result of ocean levels rising from climate change, Venice has been seeing increased flooding of the city.

The Moses barriers are supposed to limit the flooding from the Adriatic Sea. According to TheTelegraph, the project will construct 78 steel gates across over a mile of three inlets that lead to the sea. They also say when dangerous high tide is predicted, giant 300-ton panels will be raised to prevent excessive flooding.

The project is being handled by the Consorzio Venezia Nuova consortium, whose president was arrested last year on corruption charges involving the project, The New York Times reported. Mayor Orsoni is charged with being bribed by Consorzio Venezia Nuova so that they would be contracted with the Moses barriers project. The Telegraph claims he used the illicit bribes to fund his campaign for election. He has denied these charges calling them “barely credible”.

The mayor is one of 35 arrested for their involvement in the corruption scandal. Italian authorities claim that more than twenty-five million euros from the project bribed politicians. The money was then deposited into slush funds in Switzerland and San Marino and then used to fund foreign political parties. The Daily Mail reported prosecutors Luigi Delpino and Carlo Nordio said, “The investigation shows that a great portion of the funds was used to finance political forces at the city, regional and national level, and corrupt high-level public officials.”

An MP and former Italian culture minister, Giancarlo Galan, is one of those also being charged. He is said to have been bribed with 200,000 euros by Consorzio Venezia Nuova to speed-up finalizing their contract, according to The Telegraph. But besides politicians, businessmen and a retired police general are also being implicated with the corruption after a three-year investigation.

The Moses barriers scandal is just one of many; Italy has been riddled with political corruption scandals as of late. The Moses barriers scandal comes just one week after politicians were charged with corruption crimes surrounding the Milan 2015 world’s fair expo. Also, many high-ranking Italian officials have been arrested recently on other unrelated corruption and embezzlement charges, according to The Guardian. Notably, they say a former interior was charged with helping a businessman flee the country to avoid being sentenced with mafia association.

The country was sixty-ninth on Transparency International's rank of countries with threats of corruption. To combat the country’s recent bouts with corruption, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi created an anti-corruption authority. He has since put the authroity’s president, Raffaele Cantone, in charge of the Milan world’s fair expo as a result of the corruption there. The prime minister faces even more difficulties with corruption after the Moses barriers scandal.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright