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Italy: EPPO uncovers €700 000 fraud involving reconstruction funds after the 2012 earthquakes in Emilia-Romagna

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The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) in Bologna has concluded an investigation that uncovered a potential aggravated fraud involving national and European funds, to support reconstruction of the areas affected by the devastating earthquakes that struck the Emilia-Romagna region in the spring of 2012.

This investigation, which began in 2021, concerns a farm in the lower Modena area, which had ceased its activity in March 2008 and was thus not operating at the time of the earthquakes. However, in May 2014, the suspect, with the complicity of two experts, applied for those funds.

In the documents and affidavits submitted to obtain the contribution, the suspect declared that the farm was active during the 2012 earthquakes and that three adjacent buildings to the main house were essential to resume agricultural activities.

The sworn statements misled the Delegated Commissioner for reconstruction in Emilia Romagna, who approved a loan of around 720 000. A total of 520 000 was paid in 2017 and 2018.

In November 2021 and June 2022, upon input of the Modena Prosecution Office and then of the EPPO, the Guardia di Finanza - Economic and Financial Police (GDF) of Modena executed a preventive seizure decree for a total value of €520 000, seizing a number of assets, including the three buildings and financial assets of the main suspect.

The timely intervention of the judicial authorities made it also possible to freeze the final payment of 200 000, which was due in November 2021.

The three persons under investigation, the farm owner and the two experts, were served with a notice of conclusion of preliminary investigations.

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