'Camorra risk' probed at Pompeii

Anti-mafia inspections aimed to thwart criminal infiltration

'Camorra risk' probed at Pompeii

(By Kate Carlisle) Naples, September 12 - Plans to revamp Pompeii that were announced last April not only restoration details for the Roman city that was buried under ash in 79 AD, but also focused on the importance of saving the site from destructive criminal forces of the local Camorra mafia. Anti-mafia investigators, anxious to keep gangs from infiltrating contracts to skim off cash and impede works, carried out inspections on Thursday of three construction companies as well as 20 individuals involved in the Great Pompeii Project, which has drawn 105 million euros in support from the European Union. The contractors inspected are responsible for the revamping of three domus villas, or ancient Roman homes for the wealthy that are a highlight for visitors to the archeological site, and for which 3.6 million euros have been earmarked. A total of five villas are slated for works worth six million euros. Authorities want to ensure that a slew of lucrative contracts for works in the site stay far out of reach for the mafia. Another eight contracts worth 2 million euros were awarded in July for land stabilization to avoid landslide risk. A further 39 projects have been outlined, but contracts have yet to be drafted for bidding. The Great Pompeii Project has become something of a symbol for Italian authorities, who want to demonstrate the country can preserve and protect a world famous archaeological site - both from physical decay as well as corruption by the Camorra. The site has been plagued by accusations of mismanagement and neglect for decades. Collapses in parts of 2,000-year-old Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in recent years have raised international concern about Italy's ability to protect the site. The Italian culture ministry breathed a sigh of relief in July when UNESCO said that Italy had shown the verve needed to retain Pompeii's spot in the coveted World Heritage roster. Earlier in July UNESCO had given Italy an ultimatum to either apply a series of measures by December 31 or face having one of its most famous tourist destinations removed from the elite catalogue of heritage locations. The appointment of a new director general for Pompeii and the surrounding area was part of a decree approved in Italy's cabinet early August to boost the country's culture sector. "Project Pompeii is a project coordinating initiatives for the archaeological site. It will be overseen by a director general to ensure compliance with the commitments regarding Pompeii, who will also have special superintendence over Herculaneum and Stabia," Italian Culture Minister Massimo Bray said at the announcement. "Pompeii will become an example of transparency and a positive example of the south," Bray said. Premier Enrico Letta said that the decree will give "ample power" to the director and foresees the "enhancement of Pompeii. "It is our responsibility to make the site available for the world," Letta said.

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