Long-time political aide to Silvio Berlusconi arrested
Former minister Claudio Scajola accused of helping former colleagues convicted of Mafia link to flee justice system
Former Italian Minister Claudio Scajola leaves the Department Investigation against Mafia crimes palace escorted by special police in Rome. Photograph: EPA
Ex-interior minister Claudio Scajola, a long-time political aide of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was arrested in Rome yesterday charged with having helped a party colleague and fugitive from justice escape to Dubai last year.
Mr Scajola, who was a key figure in the running of Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, is accused of having helped ex-party deputy Amedeo Matacena get out of the country, even after the latter had been sentenced to more than five years for Mafia collusion.
Originally sentenced in absentia last June, Mr. Matacena was subsequently arrested by Interpol agents in Dubai last August, when Dubai police authorities withdrew his passport. One month later, however, he was released from prison and since then his whereabouts remain unknown.
Mr Scajola is the second close collaborator of Silvio Berlusconi to encounter Mafia-related problems in the last month. In early April, former Forza Italia MEP Marcello Dell’Utri absconded to Beirut just days before a Palermo court was due to hear his appeal against a seven-year sentence for Mafia collusion.
Mr Dell’Utri is still in Beirut, awaiting the outcome of potentially complex extradition proceedings back to Italy, while the appeals court will again consider his case today.
Mr Scajola is not new to controversy. In 2002, he was forced to resign as interior minister after he made seemingly derogatory remarks about labour ministry consultant Marco Biagi days after the consultant had been assassinated by the Red Brigades.
More recently, in 2010, he was again forced to resign his cabinet post after it emerged that a builder had partly paid for his flat opposite Rome’s Colosseum.
At the time, Mr Scaajola claimed the builder had made the payments without his knowledge.
In an unrelated investigation, seven senior functionaries in the organisation of next year’s World Expo in Milan were yesterday arrested on charges of corruption. Magistrates and the arts minister, Dario Franceschini, said yesterday’s arrests will not impede or delay the staging of the event.
Two of the arrests generated a strong sense of deja vu. Former Communist Party member Primo Greganti and former Christian Democrat Gianstefano Frigerio were both arrested during the Tangentopoli corruption scandal of the early 1990s.