EU anti-graft unit concludes probe of former FAO ADG Ridolfi

Roberto Ridolfi introduces his son Riccardo to Ugandan President Yoweri Musuveni during an FAO delegation visit in May 2018. Photo: Chimp Reports

 ROME -- The European Union's anti-fraud unit, OLAF, has concluded its investigation into possible conflict of interest and nepotism by former FAO assistant director general, Roberto Ridolfi, and has sent its Final Report to the European Commission for its consideration, an OLAF official said Friday.

 "I can inform you that on 28 March, 2022, OLAF’s Director-General closed the investigation," the official told the Italian Insider, speaking on condition he not be named.

 "In line with Article 11 of the OLAF Regulation, the Final Report has been sent to the European Commission for its consideration."
 In order to ensure the strictest confidentiality of the investigation, as stipulated and protected by Article 10 of OLAF Regulation, OLAF was not in a position to provide any information concerning the outcome of the inquiry, the source added.
 OLAF opened the probe of Ing. Ridolfi after Italian Insider disclosed how he allegedly used his position at FAO while on secondment from the European Commission to try and drum up business for his sons at the EXCO cooperation trade fair held at the Fiera di Roma.
 Lawyers for Ing. Ridolfi strongly denied any wrongdoing in the affair. However after the Insider report Ing. RIdolfi's contract at FAO was terminated, ending speculation that he could be promoted to deputy director general, a post for which he had been backed by the Italian foreign ministry and the radical Five Star Movement. 
 Ridolfi left his post as a director at the European Commission’s development arm at the end of 2017, moving to a two year advisory role at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 2019 he worked as an apri pista using his extensive contacts in Italian business to conjure up sponsorship for the EXCO cooperation fair in which a company managed by one of Ridolfi's sons, Sustainaway, claimed commissions for the business brought in by his father.
 Ridolfi began his career at the Fiera di Napoli and joined the European Commission in 1994. He was the EU’s ambassador in the Pacific region and then Uganda, where another of his sons has extensive business interests, before returning to Brussels in 2013.
 As a director at the Commission’s development department, DEVCO, Ridolfi was responsible for setting up the EIP, in addition to about 200 staff and 2 billion euros ($2.47 billion) worth of development programs under the heading of “Planet and Prosperity.”
Devex described him as "a vocal advocate of blended finance -- Using public money to help make development-related investments more attractive to private investors."
 Ridolfi told the European Parliament’s development committee in November 2017 that he felt like the plan’s “natural father ... who is now handing over to adoptive parents for the EIP to go further.”