Andreotti loses his immunity

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THE ITALIAN Senate yesterday voted to allow the prosecution of Giulio Andreotti, seven times prime minister, for alleged collusion with the Mafia. Mr Andreotti personally asked the House to lift his parliamentary immunity. Mr Andreotti insisted on the 'absolute and complete falsity' of the accusations.

The vote, for the first time in post-1945 parliamentary history, was by show of hands. Both houses of parliament had abolished the secret vote on immunity issues only a few days earlier in response to national outrage over the vote - in secret - by the Chamber of Deputies to bar the prosecution of Bettino Craxi, the former Socialist prime minister, for corruption.

Also yesterday, the bribery scandal touched the two-week- old government of the Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, for the first time when the Environment Minister, Valdo Spini, was warned he was being investigated for corruption. Mr Spini, 47, a Socialist and former under- secretary at the Foreign Ministry, is suspected of offences involving Italy's aid to Albania, state television reported.

In a further response to the Craxi episode, the Chamber of Deputies voted by an overwhelming 489 to 3 with 6 abstentions to abolish the discredited institution of parliamentary immunity. Once it is passed - constitutionally, it has to be voted by both houses twice - prosecutors will only be required to ask permission if they want to arrest or search an MP, but not if they want to prosecute them.