Italy Lombardy governor shrugs off graft probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2012 2:37 PM

MILAN (Reuters) - The governor of Italy's Lombardy region defended himself on Wednesday against accusations of corruption in an investigation that could further undermine political stability in Italy ahead of next year's elections.

Roberto Formigoni, an ally of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said he had been notified on Wednesday of an inquiry into alleged bribes, including costly trips and dinners, paid by businessmen allegedly to help secure favorable deals.

The governor, a prominent member of Berlusconi's PDL party, denied any wrongdoing. He said he did not intend to resign but he might reconsider his role ahead of the elections.

Formigoni, a prominent figure in the Catholic lay group Communion and Liberation, has been at the helm of Italy's wealthiest region since 1995. His fourth mandate expires in 2015.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I read the proceedings and I have nothing to fear," he told a news conference.

The case involves four other people, including a businessman who prosecutors say paid for Formigoni's holidays.

Prosecutors believe that Formigoni received 8.5 million euros in 'material goods', including trips, boat fares and dinners in exchange for granting personal favors.

Media reported last month that Milan prosecutors alleged a private company running some of the region's clinics paid 500,000 euros ($600,000) to Formigoni's 2010 election campaign.

The investigation is the latest in a series of scandals to hit Italy's main political parties in the past few months, eroding public confidence in politicians after a year of recession and before a general election set for 2013.

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro and Sara Rossi; Writing by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Mark Heinrich)