Police in Italy have arrested a former cabinet minister on suspicion of helping a businessman convicted of Mafia links flee the country.
Claudio Scajola was industry minister in the last government of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
He is accused of helping Calabrian businessman Amedeo Matacena escape a five-year jail term and transfer his fortune abroad after he was convicted of mafia association last year.
Gianfranco Ardizzone from the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department said Scajola had tried to use his influence as a high level politician: “The purpose was to allow him (Matacéna) to go to Lebanon, where he could get the political asylum. And this, because of his former minister relationships, at a political and economic level.”
Scajola had been expected to be a candidate for Forza Italia in the European elections later this month. In the end he was not selected although Berlusconi denied it was because of this case.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact the scandal will have on Forza Italia’s fortunes in the elections.