Dull professor with the Midas touch: Magistrates uncover Italian bureaucrat's fabulous haul

HE looked just what he was supposed to be: a professor and civil servant who, with newspaper and rolled umbrella, would have blended in perfectly with the hundreds who go to work in Whitehall on the Tube every day.

But privately Professor Duilio Poggiolini, head of the Health Ministry's pharmaceuticals commission, was a Croesus, a King Midas or - as his fellow inmates in Naples' Poggioreale jail now call him - an Ali Baba.

Almost every week investigating magistrates uncover fresh riches that Prof Poggiolini and his wife have stashed away in bank accounts and in their homes. Millions upon millions of pounds' worth of gold coins and ingots, treasury bonds, jewels, Swiss francs or lire: the rewards - they believe - for raising the prices of pharmaceuticals to the skies and possibly for allowing dangerous ones to be sold.

Now they have seized a haul that has left even scandal-hardened Italians gasping: 60 paintings, including Picassos, Modiglianis, Dalis, De Chiricos and Guttusos. They are now locked up in the former royal palace in Caserta awaiting valuation by its art experts.

This comes on top of the Aladdin's Cave found under the stairs in Mrs Poggiolini's home: a safe containing 6,000 golden guineas, 100 gold ingots, eight of them weighing 1kg each, 20 large diamonds, 10 silver ingots and hundreds upon hundreds of other gold coins - Krugerrands, Tsar Nicholas II roubles and valuable Roman coins.

To date the magistrates have also found: a Swiss bank account containing 13m Swiss francs; 20 other Swiss bank accounts, details unknown; two Italian bank accounts containing 15bn lire ( pounds 6.25m); one in Mrs Poggiolini's name containing 60bn lire; two others containing 500m lire each and one account, since closed, that had contained 5bn lire.

Prof Poggiolini's wife, who has the curious name of Pierr, is suspected of being his business partner, too. A chemistry graduate, she acted as 'consultant' for a number of pharmaceutical companies and was said to be a familiar figure in the Health Ministry.

She is alleged to have received rich jewels for her services, and is now under suspicion of moving money from her husband's accounts after he was arrested to the presumed safety of her own. When police came to take away her paintings yesterday they allegedly also found bank deposit receipts worth 10bn lire sewn into the upholstery of a pouffe in her living room. She is in jail in Rome.

Whether the Poggiolinis actually enjoyed their incredible wealth is a mystery. Apart from the paintings, which may have been given to them rather than bought, there is no evidence of any particularly lavish lifestyle. On the contrary, it seemed to be extremely dull.

He, aged 64, lived in an apartment with his old mother. She, 61, lived in a house in the suburb of EUR with her badly handicapped son aged 30 from her first marriage.

Prof Poggiolini, a former member of the conspiratorial P2 Masonic lodge, was allegedly heavily involved in what Milan's Clean Hands magistrates have described as the most repellent scandal so far: self-enrichment at the expense of the sick and the health services.

The Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, worried about the effect of the scandals on Italy's image abroad, insisted in parliament yesterday that 'this thievery, although immense and although attributed to people responsible for the security of the state, does not reach into the heart of our democracy . . . Italy is solid and is continuing on its road to renewal.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road