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Berlusconi slams probe on state companies

November 27, 2010

by Guy Dinmore in Rome, published: November 27 2010

Prosecutors have launched a corruption investigation into Enav, Italy’s air traffic control company, and a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, a state-controlled industrial conglomerate, prompting objections from Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, and his cabinet.

Enav confirmed reports that its main office in Rome was searched by police on Friday and that Luigi Martini, chairman, and Guido Pugliesi, chief executive, were informed they were under investigation. Enav said it would co-operate fully with the authorities.

A company source said police also searched the office of Finmeccanica’s Selex unit and the home of its chief executive Marina Grossi, as well as the Rome office of Lorenzo Borgogni, Finmeccanica’s head of external relations. Finmeccanica declined to comment.

Italian media said that 10 people were informed that they were under investigation for suspected corruption and tax fraud. They also reported that seven other companies were searched by police on Friday.

“I’m worried because Finmeccanica is an extraordinary asset,” Mr Berlusconi told a news conference. “I hope the investigation comes to nothing, as I’m convinced it will,” he said, calling it “suicidal” that the authorities should proceed against people working on behalf of the country.

Mr Berlusconi noted that earlier on Friday Finmeccanica had announced the signing of a memorandum of agreement worth a possible €1.5bn ($1.9bn) with Russia’s rail network. The company’s shares rose 2 per cent on the news on the Milan stock exchange.

The cabinet issued a statement quoting Franco Frattini, foreign minister, as referring to the “attack on Finmeccanica” as being part of a “strategy aimed at hitting the image of Italy on the international scene”. Without identifying the source of the conspiracy, he also cited the example of the media repeatedly broadcasting images of the garbage crisis in Naples.

Earlier this week Finmeccanica reiterated denials of media reports that it had set up “slush funds” through affiliated companies. Enav on Monday said it intended to sue Report, a documentary programme on state-owned Rai television, over its broadcast last Sunday that looked into Enav’s acquisition of Vitrociset Systems, since renamed Techno Sky.

 

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