A judicial tsunami suddenly struck up Astaldi, the large Roman construction company that – due to the billionaire debt and the crisis in the sector – has been in agreement with the reserve for months.The prosecutor's office of the Capital last week carried out searches and seizures in the offices of two commissioners of the procedure. The search decree hypothesizes for the professor and lawyer Stefano Ambrosini and the colleague Francesco Rocchi (the third commissioner, Vincenzo Ioffredi, at the moment is extraneous to the investigation) serious crimes, like the corruption in judicial acts. Not only that another high profile professional like him is investigated with them Corrado Gatti, which – in the Astaldi arrangement – covers the function of an independent entity that must attest to the soundness of the arrangement plan.
The investigation (conducted by public prosecutors Gennaro Varone, Rosalia Affinito, Fabrizio Tucci and coordinated by substitute Paolo Ielo) is extremely delicate. Not only because the storm arrives a few days after the decision of the judges of the bankruptcy section led by Antonino La Malfa on the admissibility or otherwise of the arrangement plan.
But above all because Astaldi is not just any company. With over ten thousand direct employees, tens of thousands more linked to the business, with business and orders exceeding twenty billion euros, the rescue of the spa headed by Paolo Astaldi is at the center of gigantic economic and political interests.
First and foremost, that of Pietro Salini of Salini-Impregilo, a multinational company that – together with the government and Cassa depositi e prestiti – to buy Astaldi restored and create a great national champion of the sector launched a few months ago the ambitious "Progetto Italia". A program that would involve half a million people among workers and employees, and someone now fears it could be stopped abruptly.
In reality, the Capitoline prosecutor's office does not seem to put the continuation of the procedure at risk. Distinguishing (as happened in the investigation of the Stadium of Rome) the alleged individual responsibilities from the overlying economic operations: the hope of the investigating judges is that, moving as surgeons, the outcome of the agreement – net of the fate of the commissioners and of individual positions – is not ultimately affected. And it can go on without repercussions on the market.
Let's go in order, starting from charges against the three professionals. Thanks to telephone interceptions, the magistrates discovered very close relations between the commissioners and Gatti, that is the man who should have independently certified their final plan for saving the spa.
Furthermore, Gatti is by function the one who proposes the remuneration of the commissioners themselves. Compensation which must then be approved and definitively liquidated by the judges of the bankruptcy.
Well, just money, in some conversations, they discussed Rocchi and Gatti on their cell phones. The commissioner, in particular, asked the assessor to use (to calculate the remuneration of the directors) the tabular "average" values, and not the "minimum" values. A big difference: for an agreement that is so important, it's millions and millions of euros.
In a close-up, Gatti uses its average values as requested by the commissioner, for an amount – in favor of Rocchi, Ambrosini and Ioffredi – of about 36 million euros. Twelve million each.
Only later does the final proposed figure fall to around 20 million euros. However astronomical (for the record has not yet been settled) but closer to the tabular minimums. The hypothesis of the accusation is that, asking to use the average values at the start, the commissioners could have obtained a final figure – even if retouched to the downside – however very high.
Telephone calls between commissioners and attestors – net of crimes, all yet to be proven – are of great interest, because they would highlight the absence of the always necessary third party, all the more so in such delicate procedures.
"Those who act as commissioners in admission procedures to the arrangement with creditors should always be impartial", explains a source close to the inquiry. "The problem is that upon agreements with very high economic values, the directors' remuneration is proportional to the value of the agreement: the risk is that the commissioners always have an interest in closing it, with the risk of being less impartial in the face of the operation".
If the reasoning applies to all extraordinary administrations and agreements, in the Astaldi case some conflicts of interest had already been reported by some debtors of the spa and by the consumers of the Adoc: Gatti, in fact, sits on the board of Banca Intesa. This is one of Astaldi's main creditor banks.
Ambrosini, Rocchi and Gatti are under investigation for corruption in judicial proceedings, not because a judge is also involved (in that case the investigative proceedings, for competence, should have been transferred to Perugia), but because the crime is disputed to all officials suspects who deal with judicial procedures, such as an arrangement with creditors.
That's not all: another episode mentioned by prosecutors is mentioned in the papers. The protagonists this time are Ambrosini and another accountant, Marco Costantini, who is also registered in the register of suspects. Prosecutors are trying to figure out if some phone calls about a professional assignment constitute another crime. Costantini ended up in the newspapers as "attester" of the agreement in continuity with Atac, which took place in 2017.
We will see what the developments of the investigation will be. Certainly both Astaldi and Salini-Impregilo will follow it with great attention: the final approval of the agreement and the rescue of Astaldi is the first step towards the purchase of the spa by the colossus led by Pietro Salini. And above all the success of the "Progetto Italia" operation, which started at the beginning of August 2019: the idea is that of create a national construction group, able to compete with the big world players in the sector. With not only the dominus Salini inside, but also Cdp Equity (which decided yesterday to commit itself to underwrite the capital increase, up to a maximum of 250 million) and Astaldi's creditor banks, primarily Intesa, Unicredit and Banco Bpm.
But a lot of attention to what will happen are many professionals specialized in the matter of preventive agreements and rich extraordinary administrations. After the investigation into the commissioners of Astaldi, the work of the Roman magistrates could indeed open a huge investigative breach regarding the system of professional appointments in Italy. In particular, on the procedures in which by law private entities are appointed that then carry out public functions (extraordinary administrators of the companies in crisis, precisely, commissioners of the concordats, who in turn appoint staff of often overpaid consultants). A world in which conflicts of interest are often the order of the day.
The Rome prosecutor, who has operated dozens of interceptions, could now point to a new axiom: if someone has appointed a professional in a procedure of any kind as their consultant, and the chosen one then returned the favor by appointing you as a consultant in another, the crime of corruption could be contested. With the use of Trojans – which before could not be used in investigations of this type, with the new legislation, yes – it will be easier to find evidence of do ut des. And to demonstrate that counseling is used as a simple bargaining chip. Certainly, in these hours, many are worrying about what happens in the rooms of Piazzale Clodio and in the offices of the anti-corruption center of the Guardia di Finanza.