Rome

PdL Lazio chief quits as police question office staff

Move comes as former caucus leader suspected of embezzling'

PdL Lazio chief quits as police question office staff

(ANSA) - Rome, September 20 - The Lazio region head of the People of Freedom (PdL) political party resigned Thursday after meetings with other party officials. Francesco Battistoni's resignation - which is reportedly "irrevocable" - came as finance police questioned staff at the Rome offices of the Lazio regional government. Investigators have complained that "chaotic" money management allowed Lazio regional officials easy access to funds from Silvio Berlusconi's PdL party. One day earlier, Lazio Regional Councillor Franco Fiorito said he was not guilty of embezzlement of funds from the PdL. Fiorito is the party's former caucus leader. Fiorito told investigators after seven hours of questioning that although he was not guilty of embezzlement, he would "pay" if he "made mistakes". Italian finance police raided the councillor's offices last week in search of evidence for probes into the local politician's handling of party finances. An obligation for Italian political parties to have external auditors certify their budgets was reinstated Wednesday into a new draft of House regulations on financial transparency Several parties, including the main centre-left Democratic Party and the centrist Catholic UDC, had said they would have their party budgets scrutinized by external auditors even if this was not obligatory. Berlusconi's PdL party did not.

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