Italian authorities arrest 11 in Milan Expo corruption probe

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ROME (AP) – Police have arrested 11 people in a probe of corruption and money-laundering with links to the Sicilian Mafia and to construction contracts for Milan’s Expo 15 fair, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Milan Judge Maria Cristina Mannocci wrote that company administrators, consultants and accountants closed their eyes to corruption and mob links involving construction contracts for the fair that was a point of pride for Premier Matteo Renzi.

Prosecutors told a Milan news conference that authorities had seized 5 million euros ($5.6 million) in assets, including 400,000 euros in cash found in a truck near Naples en route from Milan to Sicily. Anti-Mafia investigators allege the cash was being laundered.

Among the alleged crimes are tax evasion, money-laundering, embezzlement and, for two of the suspects, helping Cosa Nostra.

According to prosecutors, false expense receipts were issued to cover illicitly gained cash in need of laundering. Prosecutor Francesco Greco said much of the money was laundered abroad, and an investigation of that angle was still ongoing. Authorities suspect corruption tainted the awarding of some sub-contracts for the construction of some Expo pavilions.

Prosecutors have warned for years that mobsters from the Calabria-based ‘ndrangheta syndicate are infiltrating businesses in northern Italy, the country’s industrial and financial heartland. Milan Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini said this probe also revealed that the Sicilian Mafia, known as Cosa Nostra, was active in the north. Suspects’ intercepted phone conversations were cited by investigators.

Boccassini stressed that investigators found no wrongdoing by top administrators of Expo’s or Milan’s industrial fair organization.

In an unrelated scandal in Rome, opposition party leaders in Parliament demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, whose centrist party belongs to Renzi’s governing coalition. Alfano’s father is reportedly involved in a probe of alleged kickbacks, embezzlement and favoritism in hiring for Italy’s postal agency.

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