Italian prosecutors probe local politicians' expense claims

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2012 1:14 PM
Italian prosecutors probe local politicians' expense claims

MILAN (Reuters) - Financial police seized documents on Friday relating to expense claims made by all the parties represented in the regional government of Piedmont, investigative sources said, in the latest corruption probe to hit Italy's politicians.

The Piedmont searches came days after the centre-right regional president of Lazio, an ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, resigned following allegations officials had misused party funds to hold dinners and lavish parties, including one where participants wore togas and pig masks.

Prosecutors are also investigating alleged financial scandals involving the centre-right regional governments of Lombardy, Campania and Calabria at a time when Prime Minister Mario Monti tries to enforce spending cuts to lower Italy's debt mountain.

The flurry of corruption investigations has increased Italian disaffection with mainstream parties just months before a national election.

Piedmont is run by the Northern League, a former Berlusconi ally which was embroiled in a separate embezzlement scandal earlier this year.

Two investigative sources said financial police had visited the offices of all political parties represented in the regional government, including the centre-left Democratic Party. The documents seized related to expense claims dating back to 2008, the sources said.

The probe was launched by Turin prosecutors after a lawmaker from Berlusconi's People of Liberty (PDL) party told local television that a member of the Piedmont regional council claimed 5,000 euros in reimbursements and travel allowances to go skiing for a week.

The lawmaker, Roberto Rosso, did not name the politician and did not say which party he belonged to.

"This is something I witnessed personally. He was a friend of mine who was staying at my house in Sestriere. He earned almost 1,000 euros a day for a ski holiday," Rosso told Telelombardia television.

"Now everyone is focusing on Lazio....But you must understand what a sewer the regional governments are," Rosso said.

Ony a handful of Italian regional administrations require council members to provide receipts for their expenses.

Roberto Cota, the president of the Piedmont region, told reporters on Friday he welcomed any move that would increase transparency in the local government.

(Reporting by Sara Rossi and Silvia Aloisi; editing by Jason Webb.)