ROME (AP) – The housing commissioner of Milan’s regional government was arrested Wednesday on accusations he paid (EURO)200,000 ($260,000) to mobsters in exchange for an election victory _ the latest in a series of scandals involving Italian public officials accused of abusing their power or profiting from their jobs.
An explosion of corruption investigations in recent weeks has targeted politicians at every level, in several regions and from nearly every political party, leading to predictions that Italians may simply stay home rather than vote for an increasingly discredited political class in elections scheduled for next spring.
The probe of alleged vote-buying by Domenico Zambetti underscores the infiltration of the `ndrangheta organized crime syndicate in the political machine of Italy’s affluent northern Lombardy region. The `ndrangheta is based in southern Calabria, but in recent decades has increasingly penetrated the political, business and financial fabric of Milan, Italy’s financial capital, investigators say.
Carabinieri Capt. Paolo Saliani said Zambetti was accused of corruption, mafia association and vote-buying from the `ndrangheta in 2010 elections. In exchange for delivering votes, the `ndrangheta expected favors from the politician, Saliani said.
Emails and phone calls to Zambetti’s office weren’t returned.
Italian news reports said Zambetti was the fifth commissioner in Lombardy to be placed under investigation in recent months, prompting calls from across the political spectrum for Lombardy governor Roberto Formigoni to resign. He has refused, saying only that the accusations against Zambetti are “grave” and that he has been suspended.
Last month, Renata Polverini, governor of Italy’s Lazio region, which includes Rome, and a prominent leader in the party of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi party, tendered her resignation amid accusations that several local politicians misused public money, including to pay for wild soirees.
Even a politician from a small anti-corruption party, Italy of Values, was forced to step down in Lazio by scandal on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Berlusconi’s one-time ally the Northern League was hit by scandal. Founder Umberto Bossi resigned in April after his son was placed under investigation for using party funds for personal use. Both men denied the charge.
Organized crime penetration in local governments is not rare, and town and city councils are sometimes dissolved by national government order. The government of Reggio Calabria, a southern city that is an `ndrangheta stronghold, was dissolved on Tuesday. Three commissioners will run the city until elections in 18 months’ time.
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