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Biggest Suspected Corruption Scheme Yet Surfaces in Italy : Probe: Two former prime ministers are accused of taking bribes.

July 31, 1993|From Associated Press

ROME — Italy's corruption probe has uncovered the biggest suspected bribery scheme yet, with jailed businessmen saying that two former prime ministers and other top politicians took a total of nearly $100 million in payoffs.

Former prime ministers Bettino Craxi and Arnaldo Forlani and six other politicians are being investigated, news reports said Friday. All denied the charges.

A Craxi supporter announced Friday night that Craxi was going to Tunisia, where he has a villa, for a "long time."

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Craxi backer Maurizio Lullo as saying the former prime minister was leaving Italy for a few months for his "personal protection." Craxi and Forlani both enjoy parliamentary immunity from arrest, unless Parliament lifts it.

The case centers on the creation and quick demise of Enimont, a joint venture between the chemical arm of the huge state-run energy company ENI and Montedison, a subsidiary of the Ferruzzi family agrochemical concern.

Under scrutiny is the state's $1.9-billion payment to buy out Montedison's share when Raul Gardini, who engineered the venture, decided to pull out.

Tycoon-yachtsman Gardini committed suicide last week, reportedly with arrest imminent. ENI's former chairman, Gabriele Cagliari, killed himself this month in his jail cell while held for questioning.

Two former executives of the Ferruzzi-Montedison group, Giuseppe Garofano and Carlo Sama, reportedly gave detailed testimony to prosecutors on bribe payments. They were let out of prison and placed under house arrest Thursday.

Milan's Corriere della Sera newspaper said the two alleged that Gardini ordered that bribes be paid and they were, from the end of 1990 into 1991.

The money allegedly went into the pockets of individual politicians and into the coffers of parties in the government coalition--Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, Republicans and Liberals.

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