Palermo, Christmas and the Capital of Culture, scam: the suspects

PALERMO – It’s an investigation that starts from afar. Exactly in June 2016, when Donata Pirrone, an official of the municipal council for culture, condemned that she had been subjected to “pressure and intimidation” by city councilor Giulio Cusumano and by her comrade Alessio Scarlata.

Pirrone was part of the municipal working group that dealt with the purchase of “daily theater spaces”. Cusumano and Scarlata, who had been under house arrest for several hours, would have demanded that the official favor the cultural associations close to them. Cusumano was the founder of Federteatri, which united most companies in the sector.

Faced with the official’s rejection, Cusumano would have told her that it was October 2015 that she would have approached the mayor, councilor and secretary general to have her removed from office. Cusumano’s real goal would have been to exploit his role as an advocate for entrepreneurs ‘and artists’ demands for election support.

The Palermo Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, collected data and figures and in 2018 summoned Pirrone to record his testimony. A few months later, it was Francesco Zappalà’s turn, a historical surname in the world of Palermo theater, to report to the judges on content similar to that of the municipal official. Zappalà had been the founder of the State Theater Association. He said, among other things, that Cusumano had used an assembly of the Evangelical Church under the tent of the Zappalà Theater, rented by the municipality, to campaign.

Cusumano said he was able to control the municipality’s tasks. “Now we take the Festino,” he would have said. And not only that: the city councilor would have controlled a good portion of the state funds that counted in Palermo – around two million euros – for the events related to “Palermo, Capital of Culture 2018”.

After coming on a collision course with Zappalà, who had harshly criticized his behavior, Cusumano would have given birth to Federteatri. Since May 2018, the public prosecutor in Palermo has asked to intercept Cusumano and Scarlata. Last November, the investigation concluded, prosecutors asked the judge to issue a preventive detention order.

Agents from the Crimes Against Public Administration section of the Palermo mobile squad have prepared a report that resulted in this morning’s flash.

The events in “Palermo, Capital of Culture” were funded by state funds from the South Pact and by regional funds. The Presidency of the Council of Ministers identified the “Sant’Elia Foundation”, led by Mayor Leoluca Orlando and 100% owned by the Metropolitan City of Palermo, which is the executive agency for the projects.

The funded were 67, two of which (“The Theater Festival” and “Traditions and Christmas in the Capitals of Culture”) belonged to the associations Discanto and Attalmente Onlus, behind which stand Cusumano and Scarlata, defined as “occult directors”.

The money earmarked for the projects would have been used illegally. To give a semblance of legality, a castle of fake bills or excessive costs would have been built. Hence the registration in the register of suspects of another fifteen persons.

There is Rosaria Vinciguerra, legal representative of Attalmente Onlus, and Francesco Giacalone, who would have been the “de facto manager” along with Cusumano and Scarlata; Salvatore Morici, who allegedly invoiced the item “travel and overnight stays” for € 685 “not related to the Christmas project”; Angela Fundarò, Councilor of the Sant’Elia Foundation, and Event Organizer Roberto Capone. The latter two are involved in the chapter that did not stand up to the investigation of the investigating judge Clelia Maltese, according to which there are no conditions to challenge the corruption crime.

It would have turned out that Fundarò was aware of the mild controls and the illegal mechanism that “his friend Cusumano used to forge accounts and make money on the loans”, but he would not have facilitated it, “without having been a part of the Commission approving the projects “.

Fundarò would have obtained some benefits, “a few thousand euros” to organize a fashion show and rent a theater for the awarding of the Sicilian Glam Awars Prize and “Put Yourself on Screen”. The investigating judge stigmatizes his “reprehensible, regrettable, illegal” behavior, but does not believe that Fundarò has committed acts contrary to his official duty to favor Cusumano.

Finally, there is the chapter on false medical statements. Some driving license holders of monkey motorcycles and carriages had not submitted the application for renewal of the driving license in time. And so Francesco Rizzuto, Giuseppe Mellina, Antonino Cusimano, Carmelo Cintura, Antonino and Benedetta Accept would have no choice but to demonstrate that they did not meet the deadline because they were struggling with health issues. Problems certified, according to the indictment, incorrectly by doctors Salvatore Zarcone, Antonino Viscuso, Nicolò Catalano and Carmelina Simonaro.

Cusumano would also in this case have taken steps to achieve a return in electoral terms.

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