Italian industry minister resigns after reports he is implicated in wider corruption scandal

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Italian industry minister resigns amid scandal

ROME — An Italian Cabinet minister announced his resignation Tuesday, saying he needs time to defend himself against accusations that a businessman under investigation for corruption underwrote his purchase of a luxury Rome apartment.

Industry Minister Claudio Scajola denied wrongdoing but said he cannot continue his duties as minister while dealing with the accusations.

“As a minister, I could not live in a house paid in part by others. This is the principal reason that pushes me to resign as minister, convinced that I am not involved in the allegations, and sure it will be proven,” Scajola told a news conference. “But I am also certain that to carry out politics with a capital ‘P,’ one needs to have his papers in order and be clear of suspicion.”

Scajola has faced growing calls for his resignation after reports said he was cited in a broader investigation into the dealings of a Rome businessman. Prosecutors allege that Scajola paid €610,000 — well below the market price — for an apartment he bought overlooking Rome’s Colosseum with the help of the businessman, who allegedly paid the sellers an additional and undeclared €900,000, according to the reports. The businessman is also under investigation in the probe into contracts for last year’s Group of Eight summit hosted by Italy.

There was no immediate reaction to Scajola’s resignation from Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

It comes amid mounting infighting and trouble within Berlusconi’s coalition that prompted him to insist last week that his government would serve out its remaining three years.

As industry minister, Scajola has been at the center of talks with Fiat to secure the future of a Sicilian plant that the automaker will close at the end of next year. He also has worked to prevent foreign companies hit by the global economic crisis from leaving Italy.

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