A&O lands plum role for Stretto on Sicily to Italy bridge project

Allen & Overy (A&O) project finance partner Franco Vigliano has been handpicked by a former Clifford Chance lawyer to be lead adviser on a controversial €4.5bn (£2.97bn) project to build a bridge between Sicily and Italy.

A&O won the mandate after being included in a shortlist drawn up by former Clifford Chance lawyer Andrea Sandulli, who left the magic circle firm in mid-2003 to become in-house counsel at Stretto di
Messina, the group overseeing the massive bridge-building plan.

The shortlist was also understood to include Italy’s Grimaldi e Associati, which was reformed with five partners and 26 lawyers after its merger with Clifford Chance collapsed in 2002.

However, Sandulli’s former firm did not make it onto the shortlist.
The controversial 3.3km suspension bridge, believed to be the longest of its kind in the world, looks set to go ahead despite being rejected for EU funding. There had been hopes that the EU would contribute 10 per cent to the overall cost of the ambitious project.

The project has been in the pipeline for 20 years, but recent developments have pushed progress forward.

Vigliano said the introduction of ‘Law 433’, which came into force in 2001, created a new legal framework for large infrastructure projects, since it meant that all permits for a project must be completed by the requisite government departments in a set time-frame, thereby preventing drawn-out delays.

Vigliano added: “This government has been very much determined to go ahead with the project.” The A&O partner is also advising project group Societa di Progetto Brebemi on a €1.3bn (£855m) PFI toll road project in Italy.

The Sicily to Italy bridge was one of 220 public works projects
introduced by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in December 2001 as part of a 10-year infrastructure programme, estimated to cost €126bn (£82.83bn) in total.

Stretto is hoping to appoint a consortium to start construction
by 2005. The bridge is slated to open for traffic by 2012. Stretto is currently in the process of putting the construction work out to tender.