The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is going to examine the controversial high-speed train connection between Lyon and Turin amidst the allegations of links with the Italian mafia and a major cost overrun. The EU has already granted €450 million to the project but France and Italy still require extra €4 billion of EU financing. OLAF has confirmed that it opened investigations into the expensive rail link upon the request of French Green MEPs Karima Delli and Michèle Rivasi. “After an initial analysis of the accusations we received, we have opened an investigation into the high-speed rail project between Lyon and Turin,” OLAF commented.
The investigation will particularly examine whether the project has been subject to fraudulent activities and whether this may have had an impact on the budget provided by the EU. MEPs have specifically pointed out potential mafia links of the two participating Italian firms and the suspiciously high cost of IT equipment that was bought by the Italians. Italy is not the only one accused of irregularities. In France, the President of Lyon Turin Ferroviaire, Hubert Du Mesnil, has been accused of a conflict of interests.
“The seriousness of the evidence collected convinced OLAF to investigate this project, a beneficiary of European co-financing. The opening of the investigation is proof in itself that this is not just a question of allegations, but of proven cases of fraud, carried out to the detriment of the EU,” Michèle Rivasi, Karima Delli and Daniel Ibanez, the authors of a book on the rail project, added. The EU promised to provide 40 percent of the projected €8.5 billion (€3.4 billion) for the construction of a 57km tunnel between France and Italy but as Italian green MEP, Monica Frasoni, pointed out, “trans-European projects have been a strategic disaster for the European Union.”