ROME (AP) _ Italy’s anti-corruption investigation has taken another explosive turn with charges of Mafia involvement and of kickbacks by a state conglomerate while it was run by the man who now is finance minister.
New arrests were announced Wednesday by investigators in Bari, on the southern Adriatic coast. They charged six people with corruption in connection with kickbacks on public works contracts let out by the regional agricultural authority, the news agency AGI said.
The scandal has been racing through political parties, state-owned conglomerates and private industry over the past 13 months.
Nearly 1,000 politicians, business people and local officials have been arrested, most in connection with illegal payments by contractors to politicians and parties. Three Cabinet ministers resigned after being implicated, and charges against high political officials and leading businessmen have become a daily affair.
The $30 billion state energy conglomerate ENI, which employs 130,000 people, has become a focus of investigators. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Franco Reviglio, a key player in economic reform efforts, denounced implications he knew of alleged payoffs while head of ENI.
″I will not hesitate ... to undertake any effort necessary to protect my honor,″ Reviglio told reporters.
Reviglio’s successor at ENI, Gabriele Cagliari, told investigators the conglomerate made payments to the Christian Democratic and Socialist parties before his tenure, news reports said.
Cagliari resigned after he was arrested over payments to gain a contract from ENEL, the state electrical concern.
Reviglio ran ENI from 1983 to 1990. He said he was called in to clean up ENI after scandals in the late 1970s.
″I did everything possible to reorganize the group and guarantee the utmost correctness and openness in its management,″ he said.
The unraveling scandal has loosened the hold on power by Premier Giuliano Amato’s coalition government.
In newspaper interviews Wednesday. former Education Minister Riccardo Misasi rejected allegations of Mafia association.
He denied wrongdoing, but he told the daily l’Independente, ″I’m afraid that someone wants to drag me into an ugly story.″
Prosecutors informed Misasi he was under investigation in connection with arrest warrants issued this week for 13 political figures, businessmen and purported mobsters in Calabria, the region on the toe of the Italian boot. One of the accused is Domenico Libri, reputed mob boss in Calabria.
Misasi’s case brings together two of the criminal forces rending Italy: corrupt cooperation between businessmen and politicians, and the Mafia.
Prosecutors in Reggio di Calabria painted this picture:
Political powers in Rome decided which large companies got contracts for public works. The companies subcontracted the projects to smaller local firms with links to the Mafia. The local firms than passed kickbacks and guarantees of votes back up the chain.