MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia welcomed new boss Paolo Bellino this week but big questions, ones worth 11 million euros, remain. Despite an RCS Sport management shakeup over the last two months, a Milan prosecutor is trying to understand why its parent company failed to respond as early as April 2012.
According to newspaper Corriere della Sera, prosecutor Adriano Scudieri and the Guardia di Finanza, or financial police, are investigating how 11 million euros in false credit entered RCS Sport’s budget, disappeared and was left unresolved. They found counterfeit bank statements and payment orders with forged signatures of RCS Sport’s executives. Two documents in Scudieri’s hands relate back to April 2012. At that time, the bank director and the manager of RCS Sport’s accounts warned the race organizer of the strange operations.
RCS Sport is the biggest race organizer behind ASO, which operates the Tour de France. It runs the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Giro di Lombardia, and three other races. The group also organizes events like the Milan Marathon.
Michele Acquarone took over from Angelo Zomegnan and began directing RCS Sports in the summer of 2011. His goal: globalize the Giro and bring it to the same level as the Tour de France. He was unable to complete his mission.
In early October, RCS Sport’s troubles became public when newspaper Milano Finanza reported that 13 million euros went missing. RCS Mediagroup made several changes in its sports subsidiary. It suspended Acquarone, its race director, and media relations director Matteo Pastore. Administrative director Laura Bertinotti quit and Giacomo Catano switched departments. It dismissed Chairman Flavio Biondi and replaced him with Raimondo Zanaboni.
RCS then Mediagroup fired Acquarone, the Giro’s fifth race director in 104 years, on December 3. Catano was also let go. Last week, it announced Bellino, who comes from the Italian Athletics Federation, would direct the races in 2014 and beyond.
“I feel like a scapegoat for how the news came out. I think the facts will tell the story but for now, I feel like a scapegoat,” Acquarone said at a press conference December 5. “I’ve not taken a euro extra over my salary.”
“They’re combing out the knots,” Acquarone told VeloNews Friday when he read the Corriere della Sera article.
The 42-year-old Italian wonders why the April 2012 warning failed to cause alarms and why it failed to do so again in September. On September 20, prior to heading to the world championships further south in Florence, Acquarone met with RCS Mediagroup and RCS Sport’s top brass. RCS began an internal investigation and contacted Milan’s public prosecutor.
Scudieri is discovering that RCS Sport’s problems extend further back than originally thought, involving forged signatures and other shady deals.