Friday, 16 Apr 2021

EU’s €750bn Covid recovery fund at risk of being SEIZED by Mafia – expert’s urgent warning

Italy: Expert on 'offers' made by mafia during pandemic

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The bloc’s coronavirus Recovery Fund is at risk of being seized and laundered by the Italian Mafia across the continent. Experts have warned a failure of the European Union institutions to fight criminal organisations with a united approach could jeopardise the future spend of the vital funds that will be delivered to member states this year.

Speaking to EUobserver, criminal law professor Vincenzo Musacchio claimed that between 2015 and 2020 half of the €70billion allocated by the EU to Italy were seized by Mafia groups.

The professor associated with the Rutgers Institute on Anti-Corruption Studies (RIACS) in Newark warned the EU’s Recovery Fund could soon have the same fate.

Echoing Mr Musacchio’s warning, Stefania Pellegrini, professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Bologna, said funds are likely to be managed by corrupted local public administrators.

She urged EU leaders to come up with a joint solution as funds that will be seized in Italy will inevitably be laundered across the EU.

Indeed, Italian mafias tend to launder their money in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and even Brexit Britain, among other states.

Mr Musacchio added: “We are at least 10 years behind in the development of a coordinated European strategy to fight mafias.

“Yet it would only take following the path outlined by Giovanni Falcone, [the judge killed by Cosa Nostra in 1992]: follow the money.

“This is not happening in Europe”.

READ MORE: France attacks Brussels’ recovery funds delays – ‘Not a single penny’

EU leaders must submit their plans by April 30 in order to claim the desperately needed funds.

Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands are yet to agree on ratification of the fund’s implementing legislation in their respective national parliaments.

A Commission spokesperson said on Wednesday: “We have been working intensively with Member States on the preparation of their recovery and resilience plans for a number of months now.”

The ratification of the EU’s flagship initiative was blocked by the German constitutional court at the end of March.

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The Karlsruhe-based constitutional court pressed pause of the approval process following an appeal against the legislation by a group of eurosceptics.

Under the scheme for the €750billion bailout, Brussels will be handed unprecedented borrowing and taxation powers in order to hand out cash to pandemic-stricken economies and regions.

Before the Recovery Fund can enter into force, each of the EU’s national parliaments must first ratify the so-called “own resources” decision.

The Bundestag voted, with 478 of 645 MPs supporting the arrangements, to approve the multi-billion euro plan, of which Germany is the main contributor.

The law, backed by politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, was also passed by the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament.

It was due to be signed into law by German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, but the German constitutional court moved to pause the process.

The court said it must first rule on a motion for an interim injunction on the law to approve the EU’s plan.

A eurosceptic group, called the Citizen’s Will Alliance, brought the motion in an attempt to block its ratification.

The group argues the EU’s treaties do not allow the bloc to take on joint debt.

On its website, it said: “That didn’t prevent the European Council from passing an ‘own resources’ resolution which allows the EU to raise debt on capital markets for the first time.”

Bernd Lücke, a founding member of the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany, said he was “relieved” by the court’s ruling.

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