ROME (Reuters) - Italian police arrested a former restorer of the ancient city of Pompeii on corruption charges on Tuesday and are investigating five others, including the former special commissioner appointed to deal with the increasing degradation of the historic site.
Italy declared a state of emergency in 2008 at Pompeii after archaeologists and art historians complained about the poor upkeep of the crumbling site, pointing to mismanagement and lack of investment.
A special commissioner, Marcello Fiori, was also appointed for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, an ancient Roman city which was buried by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in AD 79.
But investigators say Fiori and the director of restoration at the time, Luigi D‘Amora, awarded irregular contracts to the restoration services company Caccavo and paid inflated prices for its work.
Collapsed walls and columns since 2008 have renewed concerns about the condition of the site.
Prosecutors say the officials broke the terms of the state of emergency, overspent on various restoration projects and agreed to non-essential work on Pompeii, one of Italy’s most popular attractions, visited by some 2.5 million tourists each year.
They have accused Fiori of abuse of office while D‘Amora is being investigated for fraud.
Police have put Caccavo official Annamaria Caccavo under house arrest and are investigating her for aiding abuse of office, corrupting a public official and fraud.
The company has been banned from doing business with public administration and police have ordered the seizure of 810,788 euros worth of its assets. Three engineers are also being investigated for fraud and corruption.
The accused parties were not immediately available for comment.
Reporting By Catherine Hornby and Massimilano Di Giorgio; Editing by Oliver Holmes