Liberty lost its case about the tenders related to Mare Monstrum investigations
The appeal against the annulment on the Region's part of the tenders that, according to the Sicilian public Prosecutor offices, the company had contributed to draw up, to its own benefit, was rejected
The protection of competition objective "in maritime transport connections towards Sicily's minor islands has not been reached yet”.
This is the last sentence of the long ruling with which the Administrative Justice Council of the Sicily Region just rejected Liberty Lines' appeal against the Regional Administrative Court's ruling that had rejected the request filed by Morace's family company to cancel the annulment (decided in December 2015) on the Region's part of the transport tenders related to the Aeolian and Aegadian islands awarded to the company in February 2014 .
The Administrative Justice Council accepted all the reasons put forward by the Region for the annulment, for the long period elapsed and for the choice not to mark down the starting price, keeping the awarding.
Moreover, it rejected the claim for damages filed by Liberty, that, upon the annulment, had carried out almost the entire service (for which it had been indemnified by the Region).
However, the in-depth examination on the administrative judges' part is not the only relevant aspect of the ruling connected with the Mare Monstrum investigation carried out by the offices of the public Prosecutors of Trapani and Palermo, that in the spring of 2017 shook the Sicilian maritime transport sector with irreversible consequences for Liberty Lines.
As a matter of fact, according to allegations, the tenders in question were drawn up with the help of Liberty, obviously to its own benefit, bribing a regional officer. Moreover, according to investigators, following the Regional Administrative Court's adverse judgement, the company supposedly tried to turn the ruling recently issued by the Administrative Justice Council in its own favour.
Due to the pending criminal proceedings related to the Mare Monstrum investigation, the ruling was issued by the Administrative Justice Council on the basis of strictly administrative legal considerations (despite the “criminal relevance of the vicissitude emphasized by the public prosecutor”). However, the judgement points out that “the ascertainment of a bribery offence and/or of interference with the contractor's freedom of choice might affect the outcome of the acts adopted”.
Moreover, due to the “ongoing criminal proceedings related to some characters involved”, to “the reference to State aid” and to the aforesaid “protection of competition” objective, the Administrative Justice Council decided to forward all the records of the proceedings to the office of the public Prosecutor of Trapani, to the DG Competion of the European Commission and to the Antitrust Authorities (whose president Giovanni Pitruzzella is involved in the Mare Monstrum investigation, although he is not accused of any offence yet).
Simultaneously with the Administrative Justice Council's ruling, the Italian Council of State confirmed the lack of jurisdiction of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court to resolve upon the litigation between Liberty Lines and the Ministry of Education, University and Research as regards several subsidies granted to the company in 2011.