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Italy: Three suspects placed under house arrest for fraud involving works in public school in Palermo

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At the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), three private building contractors were placed under house arrest today, 05 June 2023, on suspicion of fraud involving the renovation of a public school in Palermo.

The precautionary measures, issued by the judge for preliminary investigations of the Court of Palermo, were executed by the Carabinieri of Palermo, following the findings that emerged during the investigation.

The inquiry was carried out between November 2021 and June 2022 by the EPPO Investigative Section of the Carabinieri Palermo Provincial HQ.

On the radar of the EPPO is a project for the renovation and maintenance of a public school in Palermo, financed by the European Union Structural Funds 2014-2020. According to the evidence, the three private building contractors, working in conspiracy with each other, are responsible for aggravated fraud of public expenditure funds, both national and EU.

The suspects are alleged to have used a chain of illegal subcontracts and fictitious billing, while carrying out part of the renovation only on paper, in order to obtain undue financial advantage from the European Union.

In addition, according to the evidence, in some cases, the renovation works were carried out by unqualified workers, which could affect the safety of students and school staff. In particular, the fire escape doors were installed on non-compliant frames and with inefficient release mechanisms.

It was also documented that the floor renovation of the school restrooms, while invoiced in full, was, in fact, only executed on paper.

In addition to the house arrests, the Carabinieri also executed a freezing order of the financial assets of the building companies, for a total amount of €140 000.

All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the competent Italian courts.