Charges likely over Genoa bridge collapse

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Italian prosecutors are preparing possible charges against dozens of former employees of infrastructure group Atlantia after ending an inquiry into a deadly motorway bridge collapse in 2018, sources with direct knowledge of the matter say.

Government officials may also face charges as a result of the probe, the sources said.

A road bridge operated by Atlantia's motorway unit Autostrade per l'Italia collapsed in the northern city of Genoa on August 14, 2018, killing 43 people and laying bare the dire state of Italy's crumbling infrastructure.

Prosecutors have been looking into allegations that some managers at Atlantia's units Autostrade per l'Italia and SPEA did not properly maintain the highway, and that officials at the transport ministry failed to oversee necessary maintenance.

During their 2-1/2 year probe Genoa prosecutors placed 69 individuals, including former Atlantia Chief Executive Giovanni Castellucci and the former head of Atlantia's engineering unit SPEA Antonino Galata, under investigation for suspected crimes including manslaughter and wilful disaster.

Under Italian law, once an investigation has been closed, suspects have three weeks to respond. At that point, prosecutors can seek authorisation from a court to press charges or recommend shelving a case.

Atlantia, Autostrade and SPEA declined to comment on the issue. Lawyers representing Castellucci and Galata did not comment on the issue.

Under Italian law, firms can be held responsible for their employees' actions.

Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family, is currently in talks with a consortium of investors led by Italian state lender CDP over the sale of its 88 per cent stake in Autostrade under a plan sponsored by the government to regain control of the motorway company.

Castellucci, who was behind Atlantia's international expansion, was ousted from the infrastructure group in late 2019 after 13 years at its helm.

Prosecutors in Genoa have started three other investigations linked to the bridge collapse that revolve around allegations of falsified road safety reports, improper installation of anti-noise barriers and poor upkeep of road tunnels.

Autostrade per l'Italia, which counts Chinese fund Silk Road and Allianz among its investors, runs half of Italy's 6,000 kmof toll roads, and generated a significant share of Atlantia's core earnings before the disaster hit its business.