December 2, 2014 / 5:23 PM / in 3 years

Former mayor of Rome investigated in mafia probe

ROME (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors searched the house of the former mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno on Tuesday as part of a mafia corruption investigation implicating a number of current and former officials.

Rome's Major Gianni Alemanno arrives in Piazza di Spagna (Spain's Square) during the Immaculate Conception celebration prayer by Pope Benedict XVI in downtown Rome December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Alemanno, a right-wing politician who served as mayor of the Italian capital between 2008 and June last year, was placed under formal investigation for mafia association and corruption.

He issued a statement denying any involvement and saying he expected to be fully cleared.

“I will show that I am completely unconnected with any wrongdoing and I will emerge from this incredible case with my head high,” he said.

The investigation into suspected bribery, extortion and corrupt public works contracts is the latest in a long series of criminal cases involving senior Italian politicians at both national and local levels.

Police searched several premises in Rome and neighboring towns, arrested 37 people and seized assets worth 204 million euros ($253 million). Authorities are also investigating 40 others, including a number of current and former officials of the Rome city government.

The authorities said the investigation revealed “an extensive and pervasive mafia structure” linking politicians, managers of public companies and members of far-right groups in Rome which had deeply infiltrated the economy of the capital.

Distinct from the traditional southern Italian mafias such as Cosa Nostra, the Camorra or ‘Ndrangheta, Rome’s criminal underworld has long had links with neo-fascist groups going back to the violent “years of lead” of 1970s and ‘80s political extremism.

Alemanno, a former agriculture minister under Silvio Berlusconi, is a leader of the small Brothers of Italy-National Alliance party, a small right-wing formation whose roots go back to the Fascist Party of former dictator Benito Mussolini.

His party sits in parliament on the opposition benches but he has no formal role in national politics.

Also named in the investigation were Mirko Coratti, president of the Rome city parliament, and Daniele Ozzimo, the city official responsible for public housing. They both resigned, but denied any wrongdoing.

Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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