Ilva, Swiss axe on Italian steel industry

Genoa - The money seized from the Riva family that the prosecutors in Milan and Zurich had previously ruled should be used for Ilva’s environmental remediation in Taranto, remains in Switzerland for now, locked up in a trust and deep in the UBS coffers

di Gilda Ferrari

Genoa - The money seized from the Riva family that the prosecutors in Milan and Zurich had previously ruled should be used for Ilva’s environmental remediation in Taranto, remains in Switzerland for now, locked up in a trust and deep in the UBS coffers. The decision was made by the Federal Court in Bellinzona after finding legal technicalities in the previous ruling that may, according to the decision of the Zurich court, “prove the lack of validity” of that ruling. It is just over €1 billion.

Money that Italy is trying to recover from Switzerland since the government has chosen to subordinate The Hague’s environmental improvements, by using money from the Rivas’ coffers, as it is unable to directly fund the operation without the risk of it being considered illegal State aid and consequently subject to sanctions by the EU. In fact, this is a house of cards built by Renzi on random assumptions. Its collapse undermines the foundations of the company and the possibility of launching a newco, in other words a new company owned by banks and private steel entities, which is the only weapon capable of reviving the steel giant in terms of market and profitability.

Antonio Gozzi, head of Federacciai explains, “this government continues to commit serious mistakes in the management of Ilva, from the Swiss sentence to leaving the company in the hands of managers who do not know the steel industry.” And now that the Swiss courts have made a decision “that was to be expected,” according to Gozzi, the only way out is a European battle that Italy should lead along with Germany, “Because,” he explains, “Volkswagen will also require public funds and Germany will certainly not let its automobile industry fail. It is necessary that Italy and Germany join in a battle against the European Union so that environmental interventions intended for strategic national industries are not considered state aid.”

The decision of the Bellinzona court can be appealed in 10 days. But the news surprised the leaders, both in Taranto and Rome, so that after a series of meetings convened urgently, the three commissioners did not issue a statement. Piero Gnudi has only said: “I cannot make any comment on the merits before analysing the content of the ruling. We need to spare no effort in trying to get the Swiss courts to change their decision. Earlier,” he added, “there had been a ruling in our favour.”

The favourable ruling mentioned by Gnudi is the one issued by the Zurich Canton, however, this is the one considered seriously flawed by the Bellinzona courts. So much so that despite the fact that the Appeal Court has “denied the legitimacy of the appeal” by the Riva family (Emilio’s daughters gave up their father’s Italian estate but claim it in Switzerland),” the Appeals Chamber was forced to intervene officially and, because of the particularly serious technicalities, it had to find the decision of the Zurich court invalid.” The reasons: the Italian request is that this money is considered “allegedly” of a criminal nature; in order to prove that the Riva’s fortune is fraudulent in nature, it is in fact necessary to wait until the end of the proceedings. In short, for now, Ilva cannot count on that €1 billion.

And this fact is likely to affect the financial mechanism the €800 million allocated by the stability law depends on, which in turn is tied to Riva’s monies - that is to say, the funds represent only an advance.

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