Investigation is underway on suspicions of fraud and mafia involvement.

FRANCE – The European Union’s anti-fraud office, Olaf is investigating the Lyon-Turin rail project because of suspicions of fraud and mafia involvement.

The investigation will examine whether any fraudulent activity has occurred and if any EU money is involved. This has been a major concern for Italy, France, Spain and Portugal which are heavily invested in the rail project.

In particular, expensive purchases will be probed closely by the anti-fraud office.

Writer/activist Erri De Luca went on trial in January over comments about the rail project. “It is a useless and harmful project”, De Luca said.

Managing Director of Lyon-Turin Ferroviaire, Maurizio Bufalini said, “Mr Deluca is free to think what he wants and to call for protests — that’s normal — but sabotage is something else”.

Lyon Turin Ferroviaire said the rail project is meant to “encourage trade and consolidate the competitiveness of southern European countries including France, Portugal, Spain and Italy.”

The high speed railway is a planned 220km railway line that will connect the two cities of Lyon and Turin, and the French and Italian rail networks. Actual construction of the railway only commenced in 2014-15 but is not funded to this date, because of alleged fraudulent activity associated with the project.

The project has garnered much criticism because of decreasing traffic both on roads and rail, environmental risks associated with the railway constructions and its increasing costs.

No TAV is an Italian movement against the construction of the line. The name comes from the Italian acronym for Treno Alta Velocità, high speed train. The movement generally questions the worthiness, cost, and safety of the project, with support from studies, experts, and governmental documents from Italy, France, and Switzerland. The new line is deemed useless and too expensive, and its realization is believed to be driven by construction lobbies and unions.

A report by the French Court of Audit has questioned the realism of the costs estimates and traffic forecasts.

The European Union has contributed €450million to the project, with France alone contributing €555million. Upon it’s commencement the rail project was estimated to cost €6.7billion, yet the cost is becoming uncertain because of the claims of corruption and fraudulent activity associated with the project.

Maggie Triantafillou, Correspondent (Europe)

Image Courtesy: Michele Hubacek (https://www.flickr.com/photos/20692718@N00/4038317140), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Flickr