Illegal wiretaps expose croneyism and corruption

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The Independent Online

Telecom Italia, the debt-laden former public utility at the centre of a fierce row between its former chief executive and prime minister Romano Prodi, was once again all over Italy's front pages this week. This time it is the epicentre of a large-scale investigation into illegal wiretaps.

The tapping of the telephones of important people believed to be up to no good has played a vital role in Italy's national life in recent years, exposing croneyism and corruption in the Bank of Italy and Serie A football, to name the two most prominent cases this year. Wiretaps were also crucial in the prosecution for corruption of Silvio Berlusconi's close friend and lawyer Cesare Previti, and the judges he was proved to have bribed.

But amid claims that the phones of the great and powerful have been tapped for no good legal purpose, 20 people were arrested this week as part of an investigation into illicit wiretapping. Among those behind bars now are a former chief of security at Telecom Italia, Giuliano Tavaroli, and the head of a private investigation agency in Florence. Prosecutors in Milan are leading the investigation which is charged with finding whether privacy laws have been broken.

Among the rich and famous whose conversations were allegedly listened in to were Gilberto Benneton, brother of Luciano, the pullover man, Diego della Valle, founder and chief executive of Tod's shoes, Franco Carraro, former president of the Italian football federation, Calisto Tanzi, founder of Parmalat, the dairy firm that crashed with spectacular debts, and Enrico Bondi, the man sent in to put Parmalat together again.

And yesterday Justice Minister Clemente Mastella announced that he was opening an investigation into newspaper reports that whether officials in his ministry were involved in the case.