3/21/2011Italy: More Indictments in Photo Radar Scandal
Investigators in Italy file charges over a criminal conspiracy involving the use of rigged speed cameras.
Italy's financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, announced in Brescia last week the indictment of five individuals suspected of a 13 million euro (US $18 million) scheme involving tax fraud and rigged speed cameras. Diego Barosi, 60, the head of the Garda Segnale Srl photo enforcement firm would bid on municipal automated ticketing machine contracts against shell companies run by his co-conspirators. They would ensure that Garda ended up landing the lucrative deal.
Barosi used about fifty speed cameras, but only two of them were properly calibrated and certified. When a motorist received a citation in the mail, the serial number on the ticket would be from one of the two certified units. The camera actually used was rigged to display speeds fifteen percent higher than actual. This created a significant amount of profit as the contracts gave Barosi's firm forty percent of each ticket he was able to issue.
Barosi and his colleagues used these profits to buy real estate through the shell companies. So far, investigators have seized fifty-one properties worth 2.5 million euros (US $3.5 million). The consumer watchdog group Codacons pointed out that this situation is so extraordinary that the government must intervene to order the cancellation of license points and the refund of 11.5 million euros (US $16.3 million) in fines collected from 81,555 motorists.
"Many consumers not knowing that the penalties were illegal and equipment rigged paid the fines and can no longer appeal to the prefect nor the judge, because the 60 day notice period has passed," Codacons stated in a news release. "The rule that is intended to give legal certainty, but it is absolutely unfair in cases like this where we discover in retrospect that people have been cheated."
Investigations into Italian speed camera fraud have been in the works for years. Several raids were conducted in 2009. In August, speed cameras were shrouded in black plastic as up to 200 officials faced charges in Caserta. In January 2009, the carabinieri arrested red light camera maker Stefano Arrighetti and seized automated ticketing machines from 54 municipalities that used the "T-Red" brand of intersection camera on charges of contract irregularities and the shortening of yellow light timing at intersections. Update: Arrighetti's company, Kria, provided the following statement to TheNewspaper: "Mr. Arrighetti was victim of an incredible error by prosecutor of Verona two years ago when he was wrongly house arrested... Italian public prosecutors' offices have already closed or are about to close the prosecution in which Mr. Arrighetti was investigated."