Bangladesh official charged over Italian’s murder

Bangladesh police have charged seven people including a senior opposition official over the murder of an Italian aid worker last September, an officer said on Tuesday

Bangladesh official charged over Italian's murder
Tavella's body leaves Bangladesh. Photo: Munir Az Zaman/AFP

The killing near the capital's diplomatic zone was the first in a wave of attacks to be claimed by the Islamic State group, and was followed days later by the gunning down of a Japanese farmer in northern Bangladesh.
Bangladesh authorities rejected the IS claim of responsibility, saying the group had no presence in the country.
The government and police say homegrown militants are responsible for the deaths of nearly 50 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities killed over the last three years.
They say the deaths are part of a plot to destabilize the country, and have blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally.
Deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Sheikh Nazmul Alam said seven people had been charged with the murder of 50-year-old Italian Cesare Tavella, including two BNP officials.
“We submitted the chargesheet against the seven on Monday. Those who are charged include Abdul Quayum who masterminded the attack,” Alam told AFP, referring to a senior BNP official who is believed to be living in exile in Malaysia.
He said the attack was part of a plot “to tarnish the image of the country and destabilize it”.
Quayum denied the charge, telling the Daily Star newspaper he was being victimized because of his political affiliation.
BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the charge was “false and politically motivated”.
“It is an attempt to hide the real killers,” Rizvi told AFP.
Bangladesh this month launched a nationwide crackdown on local jihadist groups, arresting more than 11,000 people, under pressure to act on the spate of killings.
But many rights groups allege the arrests were arbitrary or were a way to silence political opponents of the government.
Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the country's largest Islamist party following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.
Dhaka police chief Asaduzzaman Khan said after Tavella's death that his murder was intended to “embarrass the government” and prove the country was unsafe for foreigners.
International schools closed temporarily after the murders and embassies restricted their diplomats' movements, while Australia's cricket team cancelled a planned tour over security concerns.


Italy has most recovery fund fraud cases in EU, report finds

Italy is conducting more investigations into alleged fraud of funds from the EU post-Covid fund and has higher estimated losses than any other country, the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) said.

Italy has most recovery fund fraud cases in EU, report finds

The EPPO reportedly placed Italy under special surveillance measures following findings that 179 out of a total of 206 investigations into alleged fraud of funds through the NextGenerationEU programme were in Italy, news agency Ansa reported.

Overall, Italy also had the highest amount of estimated damage to the EU budget related to active investigations into alleged fraud and financial wrongdoing of all types, the EPPO said in its annual report published on Friday.

The findings were published after a major international police investigation into fraud of EU recovery funds on Thursday, in which police seized 600 million euros’ worth of assets, including luxury villas and supercars, in northern Italy.

The European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, established to help countries bounce back from the economic blow dealt by the Covid pandemic, is worth more than 800 billion euros, financed in large part through common EU borrowing.

READ ALSO: ‘It would be a disaster’: Is Italy at risk of losing EU recovery funds?

Italy has been the largest beneficiary, awarded 194.4 billion euros through a combination of grants and loans – but there have long been warnings from law enforcement that Covid recovery funding would be targeted by organised crime groups.

2023 was reportedly the first year in which EU financial bodies had conducted audits into the use of funds under the NextGenerationEU program, of which the Recovery Fund is part.

The EPPO said that there were a total of 618 active investigations into alleged fraud cases in Italy at the end of 2023, worth 7.38 billion euros, including 5.22 billion euros from VAT fraud alone.

At the end of 2023, the EPPO had a total of 1,927 investigations open, with an overall estimated damage to the EU budget of 19.2 billion euros.