di Riccardo D'Andrea
Naples, January 29 - Police on Tuesday arrested six people over the alleged theft of antique books from the important Girolamini library in Naples as it emerged that Senator Marcello Dell'Utri, a former close aide of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, was also under investigation. Four of the six detainees were already in custody in connection with the probe. They now face charges of criminal association for embezzlement, forgery and the receipt of thousands of stolen volumes. Dell'Utri, a senator with Berlusconi's People of Freedom (Pdl) party, is believed to have taken possession of several of the books and could now face charges of participation in embezzlement. Investigations began in April 2012 after media reported that around 1,500 precious books were missing from the library, then under the direction of Marino Massimo De Caro, a former advisor to the Cultural Heritage Ministry. The intricate probe has allegedly revealed the existence of an association dedicated to the systematic depletion of the contents of the library founded in 1586 and known particularly for its vast collection of writings on philosophy and theology. Meanwhile searches continued across Italy to locate numerous volumes that are still missing and which may have ended up on the antique book market. Earlier this month Dell'Utri was removed from the PdL's list of candidates in upcoming general elections due to concern within the party over the impact on consensus of criminal proceedings against him. He is currently facing justice in Palermo for allegedly helping the Mafia after Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation overturned an earlier nine-year conviction and ordered a retrial on grounds that his legal rights had not been observed. The chief prosecutor has asked for him to be sentenced to seven years in jail.