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Venice Mayor Steps Down Amid Corruption Probe on Flood Project

Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni
Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, a 67 year-old member of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, seen here, is accused of illicit party financing, Venice prosecutors, said today. Photographer: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP via Getty Images

Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni handed in his resignation today after being released from house arrest in an investigation tied to the financing of a 5.5 billion-euro ($7.4 billion) flood-prevention system.

Orsoni, a 67-year-old lawyer elected in 2010 after running on the ticket of current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, is accused of illicit party financing, Venice prosecutors, including Carlo Nordio, told reporters June 4. Orsoni announced his resignation after saying didn’t have the backing of the political forces that had supported him.

The probe in Venice also touches other parties. Last week the prosecutors asked parliament for permission to arrest lawmaker Giancarlo Galan, a former president of Veneto, the northeast region where Venice is situated. Galan, who helped ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi found his first party 21 years ago, denied the charges.

The Venice project, known as Mose, is a movable barrier to protect the lagoon city from the flooding that regularly inundates the iconic Piazza San Marco. It was started in 2003 and is designed to withstand 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) of rising tide over 100 years, according to its website.

Orsoni was released from house arrest yesterday after accepting a four-month suspended sentence, he said at a separate press conference. He denied that he ever pocketed kickbacks.

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