Trieste: denounced the fraud of the Congress Center in the “old port”
It involves the Mayor, Municipal Officers, and the Port Authority
Analysis by Paolo G. Parovel
Trieste, 20 January 2020 – The heads of the Municipality of Trieste (Mayor, Secretary–General, Director of Public Works) and the President of the Port Authority were reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the crimes of forgery and falsehood, committed by public officers in public deeds to permit a fraud that amounts to several million Euro against two public bodies: the Municipality and the international Free Port of Trieste. It is crimes prosecutable ex officio, and the complaint was also sent, for information, to the Commissioner of the Government and to the Head of the Police.
The criminal complaint, lodged on 25 October 2019, became accessible to the public because it is among the documents presented as evidences in civil lawsuit No. 5209/19, initiated on 6 December by the International Provisional Representative of the Free Territory of Trieste – I.P.R. F.T.T. to request the demonstration of the breaches of law committed in the current Italian management of the international Free Port, which include activities of the Municipality of Trieste itself (LINK)
The criminal charges
The accusation of ideological falsehood (art. 479 of the Italian Code of Criminal Law) refers to a simulation, in official documents, that areas and buildings of the Northern Free Port (also called “old port”) be free for the Municipality of Trieste to dispose of, while in facts those are assets assigned to the Municipality under paragraph 619 of art. 1 of Italian Law 190/2014 for it to sell them off, transferring all profits to the Port Authority that is to use them to fund new Free Port facilities.
Instead, the accusation of fraud against public authorities (art. 649 of the Italian Code of Criminal Law) derives from the Municipal administration’s exploiting of said simulation to issue acts and rule expenditures on those port areas and assets, both on its own behalf and on that of third parties, thus distracting, in breach of the law, several million Euro from the budgets of the Municipality and of the Port Authority, and ultimately giving rise to the crime of loss of revenue.
As for the Municipal administration, the complaint regards the Mayor, Roberto Dipiazza, the Director, Secretary–General and anti–corruption officer Santi Terranova, as well as the Director of the Department of Public Works, Project Financing, and Partnerships Enrico Conte.
Furthermore, the complaint regards the President of the Port Authority, Zeno D’Agostino, who is co–responsible of those crimes against the international Free Port because, despite the legal obligation to prevent them (art. 40. second paragraph of the Italian Code of Criminal Law) he has not only let them be committed, but has also endorsed them.
This means that the four denounced public officers may have to report to the Court not only for the damages they have caused to the public bodies they represent, but also for the damages caused to third parties (other public bodies, professionals, enterprises) in good faith that the Municipal administration has involved in its own illegal actions against the assets of the Northern Free Port.
Criminal relevance and liabilities for those actions
The aforementioned breaches of law escalated from civil, economic, and administrative liabilities to criminal offenses on 24 July 2019, when a contract signed before a notary was registered in the Land Registry Book under GN 7221/19: under that contract, the Municipality of Trieste ceded to a private company, the “Trieste Convention Center s.p.a.” leasehold rights over part of the constrained immovable assets of the Northern Free Port.
Contracts signed before a notary should be formed to prove true facts, however, this one is based on false claims instead, because the Municipal administration, represented by officer Enrico Conte, a delegate of Mayor Dipiazza, simulated to have the right to dispose of those assets freely.
As clear at pages 1, 8, and 9 of the contract, the original Italian version of which is published here, with the false claims highlighted in yellow (LINK), the representative of the Mayor does falsely claim that the Municipality can dispose of those assets in full freedom, and that it obtained this right by virtue of paragraphs 618 and 619 of art. 1 of Italian Law 190/2014.
The document notes that those assets are indeed involved in a Land Registry Request presented by the International Provisional Representative of the Free Territory of Trieste – I.P.R. F.T.T. for the inclusion in the Land Registry Book of the legal fact that paragraph 619 has transferred those assets to the Municipality for the sole purpose of their sale, and that all revenues are to be transferred to the Port Authority.
Yet, the representative of the Municipality falsely claims that the leasehold right established with the contract complies with the provisions at paragraph 619, and so the notary completed the contract, without verifying the truthfulness of that claim.
The illegal Congress Center worth EUR 64,3 million
The contract based on those false claims regards the construction and the private management, under a 20 years concession awarded by the Municipality, of a Congress Center worth over EUR 64.3 million, of which EUR 11.7 million in construction works alone, 4.5 million of which are to be paid by the Municipality itself, which in exchange is to receive an annual rent of mere EUR 80.000, only 5.000 (five thousand) of which in cash.
That concession and the tendering procedure were both organized in manifest breach of paragraph 619 of art. 1 of Italian Law 190/2014, and both public and private subjects involved reacted to the consequent warnings and legal oppositions by fastening, even with more false claims, the opening of the building site and the signature of the concession contracts in an attempt of putting the fait accompli above the rule of law.
Yet, it is believable that the public and private subjects involved in this illegal operation acted in good faith, for they had no reason to think the Mayor, the Secretary–General, and the Director of the Department of Public Works of the Municipality of Trieste would breach the law so openly, and even with the open consent of the President of the Port Authority.
It is indeed difficult believing that in the “Mitteleuropean” Trieste a consociation of public authorities and officers can breach the law so openly, and without facing punishment, with operations that would be impossible even in those Municipalities that are placed under compulsory administration for compromising with Mafia–like organizations.
And it is equally difficult believing that, in Trieste, we are the only ones with enough courage and tenacity to denounce such situation. Because this time the crimes are proved not only by the letter of the law itself, and also by official acts regarding not only this case, but also a long series of precedent cases, which our journalistic investigations are documenting and denouncing since years.
The excuse of ESOF 2020
Indeed, in the illegal operation to build that Congress Center, the Municipal administration of Mayor Dipiazza repeated its 2002–2004 bluff, when it tried to enforce, against the law, the urbanization of the Northern Free Port by proposing it as hosting area for the 2008 Expo, despite having no legal availability of it, and yet involving professionals and enterprises in the attempt (LINK, in Italian).
This time, using as an excuse the candidacy of Trieste as host city for the 2020 edition of the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), the Dipiazza Municipal administration tried to enforce, again breaching the law, the construction and concession of a new Congress Center within the Northern Free Port going as far as to establish an enterprise with professionals and enterprises for that sole purpose.
Furthermore, the awarding of the project to that enterprise was pre–established under an advantageous “project financing” procedure, which does also grant the proposing subject pre–emption rights in the tendering procedure, thus discouraging other companies from submitting own projects. And this is exactly what happened.
The opportunistic nature of the Municipality’s operation is evident because the only request of the Scientific Committee that proposed Trieste as ESOF 2020 host city, with a budget of EUR 4.6 million, was for temporary tensile structures, to be used for five summer days – 5 to 9 July 2020 – so the event could take place in front of the historical hydrodynamic station of the Northern Free Port.
Instead, the Dipiazza administration exploited the credibility of the Municipality to “offer” a new, EUR 64.3 million Congress Center simulating to have full availability of the area, with the complicity of the Port Authority that should have refuted that claim.
The Triestine Scientific Committee has therefore included, without further verifications, the proposal of the Mayor in the dossier for the candidature of Trieste that was presented to Strasbourg, where the EuroScience Governing Board, which had no means to discover the simulation of the Municipality, awarded the ESOF 2020 to Trieste thanks it already hosting important scientific institutions.
The Dipiazza administration exploited Trieste’s candidacy and its success to simulate that the construction of the Congress Center is fundamental for the city to host the ESOF, and it used this false argument to involve in its operation the Municipal Council, and also as many other public authorities, professionals, and enterprises as possible.
With this double simulation – of the availability of the areas and the necessity of the Congress Center – the Dipiazza administration obtained an increasing number of approvals, supporters, and endorsements, all of which were used to simulate that all legal oppositions to that operations were ungrounded, as well as to persuade the construction companies to start working anyways, even demolishing pre–existing port storehouses.
But this is when banks stopped funding the project, because it is factual that the transfer of those port assets to the Municipality, as well as the Municipality’s own claim that the area was fully availability, were both under pending, well documented, and well–founded Land Registry complaints presented by the I.P.R. F.T.T. to the Court of Trieste.
The construction enterprises have thus suspended the works, while the Dipiazza administration reacted declaring that the judges were going to reject the Land Registry complaints and therefore it would immediately conclude all concession documents to have the construction works restart.
All three predictions came true, but with outcomes much different than expected.
The Court has indeed rejected the Land Registry complaints, but it did so breaching the law so seriously that the I.P.R. F.T.T. has not only renewed the complaints, it did also denounce the wrongdoings of the judges responsible to the competent control public bodies.
The new, pending Land Registry complaints are now available to the public because they are registered in the Trieste Land Registry Book under GN 8189/19, GN 8190/19, and GN 8878/19.
At the same time, the Dipiazza administration used the arbitrary rejection of the previous Land Registry complaints to persuade the companies involved to keep working in the port and to sign the concession agreements, as well as successfully replacing bank funding with a public investment of EUR 4.5 million granted by the FRIE, a revolving fund for the Territory of Trieste and for the Province of Gorizia managed by Region Friuli Venezia Giulia.
However, the public investment granted by the FRIE is incompatible with the previous concession, and the concession documents themselves are based on the same false claims that resulted in the criminal complaint against the Mayor, the two senior officials of the Municipality, and the President of the Port Authority.
After the criminal complaint and the Land Registry complaints, the I.P.R. F.T.T. has not presented civil lawsuit No. 5209/19 as well, and consequently the lis pendens was registered in the Land Registry Book, because the civil lawsuit does also regard the ownership of those port assets and the simulation committed by the Municipality – with the consent of the Port Authority – when it declared those assets are at its full disposal.
Those elements are enough to obtain the dutiful and prompt intervention of criminal and accounting Courts, for them to prevent the continuation of those illegal behaviors and the consequent loss of revenue affecting the public bodies and the private subjects involved, and also to obtain the intervention of Government authorities, for them to place under compulsory administration the Municipality (a procedure enacted for far less elsewhere) and also the Port Authority.
Furthermore, it is clear that the consequences of this unbearable situation risk to affect also the other public bodies, enterprises, and professionals involved in this illegal operation because they considered the claims of the Dipiazza Municipal administration trustworthy.
At this point, those public bodies, enterprises, and professionals should be able to demonstrate their good faith, if anything, to demand the Municipal administration a compensation for the expenses they had to bear due to being involved in the project, for those expenses do already amount to million Euro.
On the other side, nothing prevents the ESOF 2020 from taking place in Trieste anyways, because the Scientific Committee that organizes it has already taken care to not bind the scientific event to the construction of the disputed Congress Center.
The silence of the press and judicial cover-ups
So far, public opinion received little to no information about it, because the series of illegal actions took place without being exposed by the press, while the breaches of law or the liabilities of the public officers involved were often covered up by certain local magistrates.
The silence of the press is not an initiative of our journalist colleagues; it is forced on them by the political powers that control public and private funds to media – newspapers and televisions – that would not survive without that money.
As for the judicial cover-ups, it results that in Trieste they are caused by a network of transversal powers that interferes with local public authorities. Its existence is rather evident by analyzing the abnormal impunity granted so far to those responsible for the illegal behaviors described in this article and for the whole, enormous illegal speculative operation against the Northern Free Port, in spite of the effort of brilliant magistrates.
The structure of this transversal network that interferes with public public bodies is identical to that envisioned and punished under Italian Law 17/1982, but identifying it with pseudo–freemasonry or with a single political lobby on the bases of mere prejudice is a gross error of analysis.
In Trieste, the network is a transversal consociation of local subjects that joined forces in the ‘50s, under the political pretense of defending the interests of Italy, but ultimately held together only by personal interests, social advantages, mutual blackmails, and the protection it enjoys thanks to certain circles of Italian secret services, again for reasons that have lost their purpose since decades.
Ultimately, the old “patriotic” consociation turned into a local network of corruption, which influences Triestine authorities creating and parasitizing a state of economic and political degradation that favors increasing penetrations of mafia–like criminal circles (LINK, in Italian).
The interferences of this local system of corruption on the judiciary are likely the source of a number of abnormal judgments and legal decisions alike, of the surprising protection to certain magistrates placed under disciplinary investigations, as well as the severe political attacks to the dutiful rigor of the current Chief Prosecutor, Carlo Mastelloni (LINK).
Precedent cases to be reopen
This is why the complaint denouncing the fraud of the Congress Center does also request the reopening of investigations on two kinds of connected precedent cases, which are connected to this fraud either by regarding identical criminal facts or by involving the same people.
The first category regards perfectly documented complaints against the whole illegal operation against the Northern Free Port; they were lodged regularly, in 2014 and in 2015, yet, they disappeared from the Court instead of reaching Chief Prosecutor Mastelloni. And so, the crimes that were denounced continue undisturbed ever since.
In particular, a copy of one of the disappeared complaints was mailed to Trieste by the President of the Italian National Anti–corruption Authority after 22 months, however, a deputy prosecutor requested and obtained that a Judge for the Preliminary Investigations dismissed the case on sight, without investigations and on grounds that are scandalously against the truth.
Those covered–up complaints documented also two exceptionally illegal actions of the Dipiazza Municipal administration: the expensive, deceptive candidacy of Trieste to host the 2008 Expo in an unavailable area, and the disturbance of the call for tenders (art. 353 of the Italian Code of Criminal Law) in the same area, the Northern Free Port.
Indeed, in October 2008 Mayor Dipiazza threatened on the media that, had the tender been awarded to the port operators, who had submitted a project for the renewal of port activities in the area, he was going to block road access to the Northern Free Port.
The tender was then awarded, with a rather flawed procedure, to the illegal housing project proposed by “Portocittà s.r.l.” administered by Enrico Maltauro, who was later arrested for bribery as part of the investigations on the 2015 Milano Expo.
The second category of cover–ups regards an even more abnormal crime, committed by Mayor Dipiazza with the support of the same officers and officials of the Municipality, Terranova and Conte, all of whom remained completely unpunished.
Between 2002 and 2007 they organized and concluded the sale of a land plot that belonged to the Municipality of Trieste to the Mayor, in manifest breach of the prohibition to do so established at art. 1471 of the Italian civil code. It is an unprecedented case, unrecorded even in the Italian Municipal administrations controlled with Mafia–like criminal organizations.
However, in Trieste even the Land Registry Judge, Arturo Picciotto, instead of rejecting the request to register in the Land Registry Book that manifestly illegal sale, registered it on sight: this allowed the Mayor to resell that land plot, now united to other land plots, to both a cartel of constructors represented by one of his own Councilors and to the wife of his vice mayor.
Years after, in 2013, the Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the consequent criminal investigations, Federico Frezza, requested and obtained their dismissal, in spite of the documental evidences proving that the illegal sale had been personally programmed and carried out by Mayor Dipiazza himself, with the help of Secretary–General Terranova and, as proved by the transcripts of wiretapping lodged by the Italian Financial Police, also with the help of Municipal officer Enrico Conte, then Director of the Service for Municipal Property and for the Valorization of Immovable Assets.
After that already abnormal dismissal of criminal investigations, in November 2013, judge Sergio Carnimeo of the civil court of Trieste ruled, although too late, the nullity and voidness of the sale, which he recognized as illegal, however, in the same judgment he paradoxically punished the editor and the director of the weekly paper that had exposed and denounced the crime, ordering them to compensate the “damaged” Mayor with EUR 40,000.
Furthermore, in that same period, 2013-2014, three administrative judges, as well as deputy prosecutor Federico Frezza, attempted to deny the legal existence of the laws establishing the constraints on the Northern Free Port, and to charge with subversion those standing in its defense.
The loss of revenues caused by the illegal actions of the Dipiazza administration against the assets of the Northern Free Port were reported many times, so far without outcomes, also to the Prosecution of the Court of Auditors, which results to be held by the wife ow one of the municipal officers involved, Enrico Conte.
Essentially, there are many evidences that so far, in Trieste, the massive illegal housing speculation against the Northern sector of the international Free Port could take place thanks to more than 15 years of local judicial protection on all levels (criminal, civil, administrative, accounting), which consist in the conviction of those who denounce the crimes instead of those who committed them.
And something like this can only happen when the judiciary is subject to the interferences of a system of corruption that is able to influence it even isolating the best magistrates.
A new fact
All facts described above (and other related ones) are well documented, their seriousness is evident, and our investigative articles have denounced them in vain for many years. But there is also a new fact.
The new fact is that as part of Euro–Atlantic strategies, the full activation of the international Free Port of the Free Territory of Trieste is topical to promote the balanced economic development of the Countries between the Baltic, the Adriatic, and the Black Sea, which belong to the US–supported Three Seas Initiative.
The United States, together with the United Kingdom, is also the primary administering authority of the present–day Free Territory of Trieste, and it was the two of them to sub–entrust its temporary civil administration to the Italian Government and its military defense to NATO (LINK).
And all of this means that, among many other things, that the days of the little power of the local system of corruption that prospered on the long isolation of the city and of the Free Port of Trieste from the big international strategic routes are numbered.
Author of the English version: Silvia Verdoljak.