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Italy regional president, ex-port boss arrested for graft

By AFP - May 08,2024 - Last updated at May 08,2024

ROME — The president of Italy's northwest Liguria region and the ex-head of Genoa Port were arrested on Tuesday in a sweeping anti-corruption probe which also targeted other officials for Mafia ties.

Liguria President Giovanni Toti, a right-wing former MEP who was close to late prime minister Silvio Berlusconi but is no longer party aligned, was placed under house arrest, Genoa prosecutors said in a statement.

The 55-year-old is accused of having accepted 74,100 euros ($79,700) in funds for his election campaign between December 2021 and March 2023 from prominent local businessmen, Aldo Spinelli and his son Roberto Spinelli, in return for various favours.

These allegedly included seeking to privatise a public beach and speeding up the renewal for 30 years of the lease of a Genoa port terminal to a Spinelli family-controlled company, which was approved in December 2021.

A total of 10 people were targeted in the probe, also including Paolo Emilio Signorini, who stepped down last year as head of the Genoa Port Authority, one of the largest in Italy. He is being held in jail.

He is accused of having accepted from Aldo Spinelli benefits including cash, 22 stays in a luxury hotel in Monte Carlo — complete with casino chips, massages and beauty treatments — and luxury items including a 7,200 euro Cartier bracelet.

The ex-port boss — who went on to lead energy group Iren — was also promised a 300,000 euro-a-year job when his tenure expires, prosecutors said.

In return, Signorini was said to have granted Aldo Spinelli favours including also working to speed up the renewal of the family's port concession.

The Spinellis are themselves accused of corruption, with Aldo — an ex-president of the Genoa and Livorno football clubs — placed under house arrest and his son Roberto temporarily banned from conducting his business dealings.

In a separate strand of the investigation, Toti's chief of staff, Matteo Cozzani, was placed under house arrest accused of "electoral corruption" which facilitated the activities of Sicily's Cosa Nostra Mafia. 

As regional coordinator during local elections in 2020, he is accused of promising jobs and public housing in return for the votes of at least 400 members of the Sicilian community in Genoa.

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