MILAN (Reuters) - Italian construction magnate Pietro Salini is prepared to donate 20 million euros ($26 million) to help restore and preserve the ancient city of Pompeii, which has been damaged by weather and plagued by the mafia and corrupt management.
"It would be a crime to let Pompeii crumble," Salini, CEO of Impregilo, said at a press conference on Thursday to present the construction company's new strategy plan following a takeover of Impregilo by his family owned group.
When the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried in ash for centuries underground. Excavations have uncovered portions of the city, exposing it to the elements and turning it into one of Italy's top tourist sites.
Salini said his aim was to attract other international donors to help relaunch one of the world's most treasured archaeological sites.
Italy declared a state of emergency in Pompeii in 2008 after archaeologists complained about poor upkeep, mismanagement and lack of investment.
In February, the European Union launched a 105-million-euro restoration of Pompeii and said it would seek to protect conservation funds from the local mafia.
The EU project began a day after police arrested a restorer on suspicion of pocketing hugely inflated fees for work at the crumbling ancient town.
Salini's plan echoes similar moves by Italian companies to help the country's cultural heritage such as the restoration of Rome's Colosseum sponsored by luxury shoemaker Tod's.
($1 = 0.7691 euros)
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Bernard Orr)