Italian police have begun investigating eight people, four of whom are under house arrest, on suspicion of corruption in the rebuilding of the shattered town of Aquila.
The estimated costs of rebuilding the town, hit by a deadly earthquake in 2009 that killed over 300 people, run to over seven billion euros.
The men are accused of direct and indirect bribery involving two million euros. One is the town’s deputy mayor. His boss Aquila’s mayor says he feels “betrayed”.
“It was a well-organised system on the ground which was worth around 500,000 euros in cash bribes alone. Our inquiry has revealed the cash flow,” said Aquila’s police chief Maurilio Grassi.
Aquila’s deputy mayor resigned on Wednesday. Along with the seven others he is also accused of illegally transferring public money, and in some cases building homes with public money to rehouse earthquake victims only to sell them and pocket the profits.
The police also say they have evidence that money from the EU Fund for Reconstruction was also diverted into businesses with Mafia links.
Four years after the disaster many of the medieval town’s most historic buildings remain damaged and propped up.