Rome city hall victim of €55 million nickel scam

Rome accepted nickel valued at €40k to guarantee €55 million debt.

Rome city hall is the victim of a €55 million scam involving a roll of nickel wire, in a bizarre tale reported by daily Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.

The story dates back to 1997, according to Il Messaggero, when the city expropriated a plot of agricultural land to use as a bus depot. The owners objected and sued the Campidoglio seeking 65 billion lire in compensation - the equivalent of around €35.5 million - a sum granted subsequently by the courts.

The owners of the land cashed in by passing on the credit - for a lower figure - to a Reggio Calabria financier called Giovanni Calabrò, known as "Il Marchese".

In 2004 Calabrò retrieved the money in full. However in 2011 the supreme court overturned the decision, requiring the financier to pay the sum back to city hall.

Citing financial difficulty, Calabrò convinced the city to accept his offer of nickel - which he claimed was valued at €55 million - as a guarantee. The spool of wire, a microscopically thin thread that if unrolled would be almost 200-km in length, was certified by a Swiss company. 

However in mid-2018 Italy's finance police allegedly became involved in Rome's nickel affair following an investigation into the collapse of one of Calabrò's companies in Veneto in northern Italy.

Investigators discovered that the "Marchese" had succeeded in selling his Veneto creditors nickel which he claimed was valued at €15 million when in fact it was only worth about €20,000.

The news triggered alarm bells in Rome where Calabrò's €55 million nickel was found to be worth just €40,000.

According to Il Messaggero, the Campidoglio has attempted to auction the nickel on six occasions - each time unsuccessfully. It has also spent €200,000 to date in protecting its treasure, not to mention recently renewing the security contract until 2021, valued at €57,000.

Il Messaggero reports that the city is now undertaking "every possible initiative" to recover the debt.

Photo Il Messaggero