thursday, 4 october of 2012

Italian tax collectors accused of pocketing millions for parties


Italian tax collectors accused of pocketing millions for parties

The head of an Italian tax collection agency and four of his employees have been accused of stealing 100 million euros (£63 million) of taxpayers' money.

The fresh scandal is likely to infuriate Italians, who are having to pay higher taxes under austerity measures introduced by the technocrat government of Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister.

It will also erode trust in the agencies that have the task of collecting the revenue, in a country in which paying taxes is deeply unpopular at the best of times.

Giuseppe Saggese, 52, the head of Tributi Italia (Italy Taxes), and four of his subordinates are suspected of pocketing the money and spending it on luxury holidays, lavish parties, yachts, sports cars and private planes.

Finance police in Genoa, in northwestern Italy, accused Mr Saggese of personally spending at least 20 million euros of the embezzled funds.

His firm was contracted to collect local taxes on behalf of 400 town councils, from the wealthy Lombardy region in the north to Sicily in the south.

Instead they spent the money on "private planes, yachts, expensive cars, luxury holidays, extravagant parties and music concerts," the Guardia di Finanza tax police said in a statement.

The alleged fraud had been going on for years, investigators believe.

In the last few weeks, regional authorities around the country have been mired in accusations of fraud, embezzlement and the misuse of public money on a grand scale.

The governor of Lazio, the province that encompasses Rome, had to resign last month after her administration was accused of widespread corruption.

On Tuesday Franco Fiorito, a senior member of the regional government who was nicknamed "Batman" because he once hurtled away on a Harley Davidson motorbike, was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.

He is accused of spending around 1.3 million euros of party funds on holidays, expensive restaurants and luxury goods.

When Rome was hit by a two-day snowstorm in February, he allegedly used party money to buy a 35,000 euro Jeep Wrangler in order to overcome snow that barely reached above ankle height and disappeared within 48 hours.

The regional governments of Piedmont, Calabria, Lombardy and Campania are also being investigated.

(Published by The Telegraph - October 3, 2012)

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