Covid emergency chief arrested for corruption in Sicily


Corruption and procurement piloted in the Sicilian health: eight people ended up under house arrest including Antonino Candela, 55 years old, current coordinator of the regional structure for the Covid-19 emergency, former extraordinary commissioner and general manager of the ASP of Palermo. The “Sister health” operation which shed light on a vast system of bribes and piloted procurement in health led to 12 personal precautionary measures, company seizures and financial resources. By proxy of the Prosecutor of the Republic of Palermo, the financiers of the Provincial Command have implemented an order of the investigating judge against 12 people, variously investigated for corruption for an act contrary to the duties of office, undue induction to give or promise utility , instigation to corruption, disclosure of office secrecy and disturbed freedom of enchantment.

In the midst of the coronavirus emergency, the President of the Sicilian Region, Nello Musumeci, on March 12th had appointed Antonino Candela, coordinator of the regional structure for the coronavirus emergency in Sicily. Candela was entrusted with the task of liaising between the Councilor for Health Ruggero Razza and the public structures, also having Civil Protection as an interface. In 2016 he had received the Silver Medal of Merit of Public Health which went to reward the commitment for the functioning, for the legality and the anti-corruption in the sector. The then Minister of Health explained that it was intended in this way to give recognition to “real ‘heroes of our time’, people who have done extraordinary and generous acts of courage to protect and help those who suffer, as well as eminent scholars who with their constant work and commitment they allow the progress of medical knowledge and science “.

“Remember that health is a condominium and I always remain the condominium manager”, Candela said instead, not knowing that he was intercepted, who, underlines the investigating magistrate, “acted as a staunch champion of legality”, but who is considered to be the head of one centers of influence capable of conditioning and driving contracts, pocketing bribes for 260 thousand euros.

Among the other recipients of pre-trial detention in prison: Fabio Damiani, 55 years old from Palermo, current general manager of the Asp of Trapani, and Salvatore Manganaro, 44 ​​years old, from Agrigento, reference ‘fixer’ for Damiani. Eight under house arrest including Antonino Candela, 55, current coordinator of the regional structure for the Covid-19 emergency, former extraordinary commissioner and general manager of the Asp of Palermo.

Also under house arrest Giuseppe Taibbi, 47, from Palermo, reference ‘fixer’ for Candela; Francesco Zanzi, 56, from Rome, CEO of Tecnologie Sanitari Spa; Roberto Satta, 50, from Cagliari, operational manager of Tecnologie Sanitari spa; Angelo Montisanti, 51, from Palermo, operating manager for Sicily of Siram spa and managing director of Sei Energia scarl; Crescenzo De Stasio, 49 years old, from Naples, director of the business unit in the center of Siram spa, Ivan Turola, 40 years old, from Milan, “hidden contact person” of Ltd; Salvatore Navarra, 47, from Caltanissetta, president of the board of directors of Pfe spa. On the other hand, the measure of 20% was applied to Giovanni Tranquillo, 61 years old, from Catania, occult referent of Euro & promos Spa and Pfe spa, from Giuseppe Di Martino, 63 years old, from Polizzi Generosa, engineer and member of the tender commission. temporary ban on professional, entrepreneurial and public office activities. With the same provision, the magistrate ordered the preventive seizure of 7 companies, based in Sicily and Lombardy, as well as financial resources for 160 thousand euros.

The bribes promised to public officials reach an estimated figure of at least 1,800,000 euros. The investigations carried out by the Economic Police Unit – Financial of the Palermitan yellow flames – carried out with the help of telephone and environmental wiretapping, stakeouts, stalking, video footage, documentary examinations and financial flows – have made it possible to hypothesize the existence of what is being defined “a power center made up of unfaithful businessmen, entrepreneurs and public officials who would have enslaved the public function to private interests, so as to allow undue and substantial economic benefits to be made in the public health sector”.

The phases of the corruption system revolved around the tenders called by the Central Commission of the Sicilian Region and by the Asp 6 of Palermo, revealing “the plots underlying the hoarding of millionaire contracts in the Sicilian health sector”. Specifically, 4 publicly known procedures affected by disruptions were analyzed, awarded starting from 2016, the overall value of which is close to 600 million euros, relating to the management and maintenance of electromedical equipment, banned by Asp 6 with a value of 17,635,000 EUR; integrated services for the maintenance of electromedical equipment – banned by the central purchasing body worth 202,400,000 euros; supply of energy carriers, operation and maintenance of technological systems – banned by Asp 6 worth 126,490,000 euros; cleaning services for regional health service bodies – banned by Cuc worth 227,686,423 euros.

The “unscrupulous illegal conduct”, underline the Yellow Flames, guaranteed “the personal enrichment of the unfaithful public officials and their intermediaries”, by applying a tariff that was around 5% of the value of the contract awarded. The economic operators who won the tenders, important national-level companies, for the investigators were “aware and involved in the criminal dynamics”, from which “they took an advantage that would have paid the bribes over time”.

The illicit scheme, reconstructed by the anti-corruption specialists of the Public Spending Protection Group of the Economic – Financial Police Unit, appeared consolidated: the entrepreneur interested in the contract approaches the businessman, known interface of the corrupt public officer; the contractor, in agreement with the public official, agrees with the corrupting company the criminal strategies to favor the award of the tender; the company, having received detailed and confidential information, presents its “guided offer”, which will then be adequately followed up to obtaining the sought illicit result.

The misconduct that emerged during the course of the troubled procedures concern: the attribution of discretionary scores, not reflecting the merit of the submitted project; the replacement of envelopes containing economic offers; the payment of work progress reports even in the absence of the necessary supporting documentation; the dissemination of confidential information, covered by professional secrecy. The payments of bribes in some cases were made with the classic delivery of cash during confidential meetings, but much more often they were instead camouflaged through complex accounting operations established between the companies awarded the contract and a galaxy of other companies, headed by nominees , but in fact referable to the reference fixers for corrupt public officials.

To make the identification of the criminal system set up even more complex, the suspects had gone as far as creating fraudulent trusts, with the aim of shielding the real traceability of the companies used for illicit purposes. The criminal pact was then further cemented thanks to the continuous and systematic interlocutions that were necessary to manage all the implementation phases of contracts whose duration was obviously multi-year.

The Yellow Flames commented “This activity further highlights the commitment of the Guardia di Finanza, under the direction of the public prosecutor’s office, to combat corruption and the most serious forms of crime against the public administration that deprive the community of public resources, also weighing heavily on the quality of services provided to citizens, especially in a sensitive sector such as health “.

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