Italian ex-minister held over mafia links



Naples: Italy's former minister and lawmaker Nicola Cosentino has been detained after he lost his immunity from prosecution for association with the local Camorra mafia and for corruption.

Cosentino was not re-elected to the new Italian parliament. He was barred by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party from running in the election.

Cosentino, a businessman who was a junior economy minister in the last Berlusconi government, stepped down in July 2011.

His resignation came days before a no-confidence vote that followed allegations he was part of a secret society aimed at networking and influencing the country's power establishment. Such organisations are illegal in Italy.

Costentino is accused of pressuring Italy's largest bank UniCredit to provide a line of credit to a company with alleged links to the Camorra to build a shopping centre.

He is also accused of doing business with the Camorra over the illegal disposal of rubbish in Naples.

Prosecutors also allege he was involved in voting fraud in the 2007 and 2010 local elections.

A close ally of Berlusconi, he was the party's regional coordinator in Campania region around Naples and made a 2010 bid to run for regional governor.

In December 2009, the Italian parliament rejected a request for Cosentino's arrest and in September 2010 politicians in a secret ballot voted in favour of forbidding prosecutors from using telephone taps of conversations between Consentino and businessmen suspected of having ties with organised crime.

Cosentino denies any wrongdoing.

IANS