9/27/2010Italy: Red Light Camera Scandal Goes to Trial
Public officials, private firm indicted for rigging speed camera systems in Italy.
Italy's financial police force, the Guardia di Finanza, announced last Monday that ten individuals would go to trial and another 300 public officials, police officers and corporate employees face indictment for fraud, forgery and public corruption involving the use of red light camera and speed camera equipment. Salerno prosecutor Amato Barile kicked off the investigation known as "Operation Devius" in June 2009 with a series of dramatic raids in 120 cities that using the services of the private firm Garda Segnale Srl between 2007 and 2009.
The raids uncovered evidence that Velomatic 512 and Traffiphot III SR photo radar units bearing the same individual serial number were being used by different municipalities located hundreds of miles apart. Under Italian regulations, each camera used for issuing citations must be properly calibrated and approved. The "cloned" serial numbers helped Garda Segnale avoid the cost of testing individual units, and it also helped hide the fact that several of its camera units were adjusted in such a way as to read speeds between 10 and 30 km/h (6 to 19 MPH) too fast, generating additional citations. Prosecutors also believe that some of these the cameras were used in locations not authorized by ordinance, and their operators were not properly trained. Municipalities ignored ministerial directives by entering into per-ticket compensation schemes for the cameras.
Police gathered fifty speed cameras as evidence as well as computers, software, banking records and other documents used to establish a chain of illegal business practices. A total of 100,000 tickets worth 13 million euros (US $17 million) were issued by the programs under investigation. Salerno prosecutor Amato Barile alleges that the mastermind behind the operation set up a chain of interconnected companies to compete for the photo enforcement contracts with municipalities. Although it would appear that five or six companies were involved in a bidding war for the municipal business, each one was part of the same organization.