Italian minister falls victim to corruption

CLAUDIO MARTELLI, the Italian Justice Minister, resigned yesterday after being named in connection with Italy's biggest political corruption scandal and possibly the P2 Masonic plot. He was the first minister in the present government to resign, though the shadow of suspicion has fallen over others, too.

Mr Martelli, the former right- hand man to Bettino Craxi, the discredited Socialist leader and former prime minister, has been spearheading the campaign to unseat his former boss, presenting himself as the clean, younger-generation leader able to save his moribund party. His resignation is clearly intended to preserve this image, for such a move is by no means automatic in Italy and other politicians have preferred to cling to their jobs no matter what the charges against them.

Mr Martelli's name was dragged into the morass of corruption investigations by Silvio Larini, a close friend and associate of Mr Craxi who, after several months in apparently luxurious hiding in France, Switzerland and a south Pacific island, gave himself up to the Italian authorities at the weekend and started telling at least part of what he knew.

One of the things he knew about was a numbered account with the Union des Banques Suisses in Lugano, which he reportedly confessed was opened in his name and into which the Socialist Party allegedly had some of the vast proceeds from corruption paid. And in particular a certain sum of dollars 7m ( pounds 4.9m) allegedly paid in by Roberto Calvi, the crooked former head of the Banco Ambrosiano, on behalf of his ally Licio Gelli, the sinister spider at the centre of the P2 Masonic web of conspiracy to subvert and take over Italy.

The money was allegedly a kickback on a loan which the Socialist leaders had organised to help bail out the ailing Banco Ambrosiano. Rumours that Mr Martelli was connected with the account have been circulating since investigations into the P2 plot started 12 years ago and he has always flatly denied them. Learning that formal investigations were now to be opened against him he resigned.

According to leaks from the Milan public prosecutor's office, Mr Larini has also allegedly stated that millions of pounds' worth of kickbacks from work on the Milan underground railway were actually destined for Mr Craxi himself. Mr Larini is involved in a company that technically owns a beautiful villa in Hammamet, Tunisia, where members of the Craxi family spend their holidays.

Mr Larini's return and his confessions came only a couple of days ahead of the Socialist Party national assembly, due to open tonight, in which Mr Craxi is supposed to bow out and a successor be nominated. Mr Martelli yesterday also resigned from the party and probably will not be there, but in any case his bid seemed doomed as it would have hopelessly divided the leadership.

Who will take over from Mr Craxi after 15 years of autocratic leadership, and try to salvage the century-old party that is rapidly losing almost all the voters it had, is still undecided. The Socialist secretariat, which failed to produce a successor on Tuesday night, meets again this morning, and the assembly is due to vote tomorrow.

Mr Craxi has received notifications of four separate investigations against him for corruption and related crimes. But the scandals involve the other ruling parties too. This week the former Christian Democrat party (DC) secretary, Arnaldo Forlani, the head of DC's Rome branch, Vittorio Sbardella, nicknamed 'The Shark', and two leading members of the Republican Party have either been served notice of investigations or allegedly been implicated by witnesses.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory