Three employees of companies owned by infrastructure group Atlantia were placed under house arrest on Friday, police said, as part of an investigation into the safety of motorway viaducts following a bridge collapse in Genoa. The collapse of the Genoa viaduct, operated by Atlantia-controlled Autrostrade per l'Italia, in August last year killed 43 people.
The tax police said in a statement on Friday they had found evidence that safety reports for some viaducts operated by Autrostrade had been falsified, or information had been omitted, with the aim of misleading transport ministry inspectors and avoiding further checks. Shares in Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family, were down nearly 8% in afternoon trade as a senior politician renewed calls for the company to be stripped of its motorway concession following the arrests.
The three people placed under house arrest are employed by Atlantia's motorway unit Autostrade per l'Italia and maintenance company SPEA Engineering, the police said, without giving more details. Six other people at the same companies were temporarily banned from holding office, the police said, adding that the offices of the people targeted by the probe had been searched.
Autostrade per l'Italia said in a statement that all the viaducts targeted by the investigation were safe, adding it had already moved the officials under house arrest to different jobs. Shares in Atlantia quickly fell more than 7% in Milan on news of the house arrests, prompting them to be briefly suspended from trade.
A Milan trader said the arrests had revived concerns that the Italian government could make good on a threat of revoking the company's motorway concession, which accounts for one-third of the infrastructure group's core profits. A senator of Italy's 5-Star Movement, a party in the ruling coalition government, said Atlantia must lose the concession.
"Measures taken against some Autostrade per l'Italia's officials this morning are based on the hypothesis of false reports on the actual maintenance of other viaducts... all this is unacceptable and must lead to a revocation of the concessions," said Agostino Santillo, who is also a member of the transport committee of Italy's Senate. The politician called for a general overhaul of the concession system in Italy to guarantee "large investments" by infrastructure operators.
The 5-Star Movement has been the most vocal against Atlantia since the collapse of the bridge in Genoa, with the other party in a new governing coalition, the Democratic Party, more inclined towards reviewing the concession. The shares in Atlantia were down 7.9% down by 1522 GMT after resuming trade.
Atlantia and the two units have been under scrutiny since the collapse of the Genoa viaduct. Around 70 employees at Atlantia and the transport ministry are already under investigation in a separate probe into the causes of the disaster.
Atlantia has always denied any wrongdoing. Autostrade per l'Italia said after the arrests on Friday that it would consider possible legal action to protect its reputation.
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