New storm in Caronte & Tourist: 3 ships and 3.5 million undue contributions seized

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MESSINA – The financiers of the Economic and Financial Police Unit of Palermo and those of Messina, as part of an investigation coordinated by the Prosecutor's Office of the city of the Strait, seized 3 ferry ships of the Caronte & Tourist (Peace, Charon and the Ulysses), money, movable and immovable property and company shares, for over 3.5 million. The top managers of the leading company in maritime connections in the Strait are charged with the crime of fraud for the achievement of public supplies, ideological falsity and fraud in public supplies. The seized ships are currently used in the La Maddalena / Palau, Trapani / Egadi and Palermo / Ustica connections.

In the register of suspects Sergio La Cava, 56 years old, director and managing director of "Ngi Spa" (incorporated in 2017 by Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa) and legal representative of "Maddalena Lines Srl" (70% owned by Ngi Spa and owner) della «Pace»), Luigi Genchi, 55 years old, director and CEO of Ngi Spa, Edoardo Bonanno, 48 years old, managing director of Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa and Vincenzo Franza, 55 years old, president of Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa and former managing director of Ngi Spa. The company Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa has been reported for the administrative liability deriving from the crime.

The investigations carried out by the Palermo finance and coordinated by the Messina prosecutor Maurizio de Lucia have ascertained that the three boats would have serious technical and structural deficiencies that would not guarantee safety in the transport of people with reduced mobility.

The investigation revolves around the tender with which the Navigazione Generale Italiana (Ngi Spa), a company later merged by incorporation into Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa in 2017, was awarded in 2015 lot II (Trapani-Egadi Islands) of the tender issued by the department Regional Infrastructure and Mobility for the maritime connection service for five years between Sicily and the smaller islands. The value of the lot was approximately 15.9 million, with the award, through a significant fall, to 5.3 million.

To participate and win the race each of the competitors had identified a ferry-boat (the NGI had designated "Pace") to be dedicated exclusively to the section covered by the single lot, equipped with structural characteristics that would allow people with "reduced mobility" to navigate safely. A formula that includes anyone who has a particular difficulty in using public transport, including the elderly, the disabled, people with sensory disturbances and those who use wheelchairs, pregnant women and those accompanying small children.

The ship «Pace», for the accusation, however, it presents serious technical and structural deficiencies that make it unsuitable for safely transporting people with reduced mobility. The discrepancies (with respect to the provisions of both the regulations and the announcement), hidden through false certificates of conformity, also ascertained by technical bodies during the inspection activities, have never been remedied and, consequently, would not have allowed participation or, above all, , the award of the tender to Ngi Spa (now Caronte & Tourist Isole Minori Spa).

The investigations they would also have made it possible to verify the use of irregular replacements of the ferry designated for the Trapani / Egadi route, not previously authorized by the contracting authority, but, above all, occurred with additional ferries ("Caronte" and "Ulisse") also without the requirements for the transport of people with reduced mobility. Further inspections of the ships with the intervention of naval engineers, appointed technical consultants by the Prosecutor, confirmed the investigative hypothesis, eliminating any doubt – investigators and investigators say – about the unsuitability of all three ferries and the consequent concrete risk ( in case of shipwreck, fire etc.) for the safety of people with reduced mobility.

Undue contributions

The Caronteamp shipping company; Tourist would also have unduly received public contributions in the 2016-2019 period for over 3.5 million.

The national legislation and the European Union law on state aid, to make the scheduled connection service economically convenient, provides for contributions to the benefit of the service contractors, based on an estimate of the cost of managing the route, net of revenues arising from the sale of tickets. The seized naval vessels were entrusted to judicial administrators appointed by the investigating magistrate, while the shipping company was appointed custodian.

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