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Italy to combat Mafia crime and corruption at Pompeii

The ancient city of Pompeii boasted more than its share of espionage and political intrigue before it was wiped out by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. at the height of the Roman Empire.

Italy to combat Mafia crime and corruption at Pompeii
Frescoes in the Roman Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) 
in Pompeii [Credit: AFP]
Now Italian cultural officials are looking to recruit modern day “whistle-blowers” to root out Mafia crime and corruption as the site is responsible for spending €100 million (£80 million) of European Union funds in a bid to save the ancient site from permanent collapse.

In an operation dubbed “Deep Throat”, Luigi Curatoli, the director general of the Great Pompeii Project, is urging “whistle-blowers” to report any type of crime or questionable activity they see at the World Heritage site.

“The vast nature of the Great Project requires us to use every mechanism of control under the law,” Mr Curatoli told Naples daily, Il Mattino.

“Obviously we hope that no criminal offences occur. But if they do happen, thanks to this ‘whistleblower’ scheme, we can intervene quickly.”

Pompeii is one of Italy’s most popular tourism attractions and draws almost three million visitors a year. For decades it has been plagued by accusations of mismanagement, neglect and infiltration by the local Camorra mafia which has been linked to shoddy construction and repairs at the site in the past.

Italy to combat Mafia crime and corruption at Pompeii
Pompeii street [Credit: Getty]
In its bid to clamp down on corruption, the cultural superintendency, responsible for Pompeii, has set up a “whistleblower” page on its website urging staff to report “behaviours, risks, crimes or irregularities, attempted or carried out, that damage public interest”.

Darius Arya, an archeologist who heads the American Institute of Roman Culture in Rome, said criminal infiltration has been endemic at Pompeii for decades. He welcomed the “whistleblower” scheme.

“There’s been a lack of transparency, you have to do something,” Mr Arya told The Telegraph. “They are throwing a lot of money at the site and it’s critical because more and more people are going to Pompeii.”

“It will be even more impressive if the momentum is sustained and the site reaches a sorely needed equilibrium between accommodating ever greater numbers of tourists with a true, well managed and transparent long-term site management plan.”

News of the “whistleblower” scheme emerged as four homes, once buried under layers of volcanic ash, opened to the public at Pompeii for the first time this week in an initiative funded by the EU’s Great Pompeii Project.

Italy to combat Mafia crime and corruption at Pompeii
Apollo statue, Pompeii [Credit: Getty]
The newly restored area stretches for 60,000 square metres (650,000 sq feet) in the Regio VII area of the ancient commercial town which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius 2000 years ago.

The House of Queen Caroline and the House of the Wild Boar are among the new buildings to open to the public for the first time.

Walls, frescoes, roofs and mosaics were restored as well as roads and pavements.

Dogged by mismanagement and internal squabbling, Pompeii was unable to meet a December 2015 deadline for spending EU funds allocated for recovery and restoration. The project has been extended for another year.

Over the past few years, several walls and parts of ancient Roman villas have collapsed at Pompeii. Late last year a villa that belonged to a Roman nobleman named Julius Polybius was damaged by flooding.

Source: The Telegraph [March 26, 2016]

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