Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Venice Trembles": MOSE Corruption Arrests

"Rigged contracts," the headline reads, "Mazzacurati Arrested: Venice Trembles"
I ran into a Venetian architect friend yesterday evening who was in an unusually gleeful mood: "Have you heard the news?" he asked. "The director of MOSE has been put in jail! It's about time," he continued, "I've waited 15 years for this!"

The man he was referring to was Giovanni Mazzacurati who, until just a couple of weeks ago, was the president of Consorzio Venezia Nuovo, the huge conglomerate of businesses responsible for building the controversial, over-budget and behind-schedule gates in the inlets between the Adriatic and the lagoon that are supposed to protect Venice from high tides. 

My architect friend had resigned from one of his former positions in disgust over being repeatedly asked to sign off on fraudulent construction contracts cooked up by Mazzacurati. He said he'd reported the illegalities, but nothing had ever been done about them--and he imagined nothing ever would.

But all that suddenly changed yesterday afternoon, when Mazzacurati and 13 others were arrested for rigging contracts and other illegalities related to the Consorzio's multi-billion euro cash cow, the MOSE project. A project which for the last decade, as I happened to mention in a post last Sunday (, has absorbed massive amounts of money that once would have gone to maintain the city of Venice.

Considering the amount of money tied up in the MOSE project, and the project's importance to the survival of Venice, I've been surprised not to find more coverage of the arrests and the huge ongoing almost peninsula-wide investigation of the scandal in the English language press: I've seen nothing, for example, in The New York Times, nothing in The Guardian... Here's a link to one short English language report:

My architect friend said, "Mazzacurati must have known something was going to happen soon--that's why he just resigned as president of the Consorzio."

It seems that everyone in Venice knew, or at least strongly suspected, what was going on with MOSE; the shock is that the authorities have actually done anything about it--and on such a large scale. And so my favorite headline of the local papers alludes to Visconti's Neo-realist masterpiece about poor Sicilian fishermen, La terra trema, or The Earth Trembles. One might suppose that Venetians would be trembling in rage and indignation to discover--or have confirmed--that the Consorzio Venezia Nuovo, entrusted with the survival of their legendary city, has used the opportunity for the most cynical profiteering. Perhaps. But given the far-reaching nature of the investigation, and the fraud, I think it's safe to say that more than a few Venetians may be trembling at the prospect of their own arrest.

[Part 2 of "Teatro Marinoni Revisited" will be the next post--as this news couldn't wait.]


  1. The Telegraph said it was due for completion in 2016. Let's hope the recent events don't delay it even further.

    1. Completing it, Andrew, seemed to be pretty far down on the list of Mazzacurati's and his cronies' priorities. I'm wondering if the authorities or anyone anywhere can actually restore any credibility to the whole project

      In the glory days of the Venetian Republic I believe Mazzacurati might have ended up hanging between the two columns near the Molo for such behavior and, though I'm opposed to capital punishment, there's a certain logic to that. There are instances of graft and theft so damaging to the common interest that they should be treated, perhaps, as nearly equivalent to treason--such as MOSE, such as the US Banking & Wall Street Swindles, such as the British LIBOR shenanigans--and are deserving of long-term imprisonment. Of course, in the US most of the political system would then end up in prison, and I won't even mention Italy...