Letta eyes growth-boosting Expo clean of mafia

Formigoni out as Milan aims to dust off corruption suspicion

Letta eyes growth-boosting Expo clean of mafia

Rome, May 6 - Italian Premier Enrico Letta on Monday pledged that the government will do everything to stop mafia gangs muscling in on contracts for Expo 2015 in Milan. "No one should think they can get away with being crafty when it comes to checks (on contracts linked to the event)," Letta told an Expo 2015 news conference in Milan. "The government's commitment to stopping illicit and illegal activities will be total". Organizers of the Expo, also known as the World's Fair, suspended a number of contracts at the start of the year with builders and contractors suspected of dealings with the mafia. Letta, who was named Premier last week, also reiterated his strong support of the Expo, which he has championed since he served as an undersecretary in the 2006-08 Romano Prodi government and worked on Milan's bid to host the event. On Monday he said the Expo was an opportunity for national growth and that a little "visionary madness" was needed to make it and an Italian economic recovery a success. "For the government, (Expo) is a true and real priority," he told journalists in a press conference. Letta said the food-themed Expo, called "Feed the Planet: Energy for Life", will act as "a hub" for Italian economic turnaround. "It really represents the heart of the possibility for recovery," Letta said. Asked about criticism calling his political programme a "book of dreams", Letta responded, "We need dreams. If we think of being here without having a little visionary madness...Even the Expo, seven years ago, was visionary madness and here we are today. "Dreams even serve the dry policy of numbers. The Expo is a point of reference for the life of this government. From here we want to send a message of cohesion. We are a team, Team Italy". As far as Expo is concerned, the sole captain of the team is Giuseppe Sala, who was put in complete control of Expo 2015 in Milan on Monday when Premier Enrico Letta made him the event's 'sole commissioner'. Letta announced the decision after a meeting in Milan with three ministers and representatives of local institutions involved in organising the Universal Exposition. The move effectively ends the involvement of Roberto Formigoni, the once Expo commissioner-general and former Lombardy governor whose administration fell last year. In October, Formigoni announced the dissolution of his legislature after one of his councillors was arrested and charged with buying votes from the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mafia and paying them to extort favors, including construction tenders for the Expo in Milan. Prosecutors claim Domenico Zambetti got 4,000 votes from 'Ndrangheta in exchange for 200,000 euros and several jobs as well as contract promises. Zambetti denies the charges and claims the mafia forced him to make payments and promise favours. The Expo, which lasts six months, is expected to attract over 20 million visitors and to be a massive money spinner for Italy's business capital. Preparations for the Milan Expo are under way on a 1.1-million-square-meter site. Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus theme in Genoa, the explorer's hometown. The last fair was held the summer of 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea.

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