Bari

Former Berlusconi minister sentenced to four years in jail

Fitto found guilty of corruption, abuse of office

Former Berlusconi minister sentenced to four years in jail

Bari, February 13 - Raffaele Fitto, a former minister in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's last government, has been sentenced to four years in prison after a Bari court found him guilty of corruption, illegal party financing and abuse of public office. The court upheld prosecutors' accusations that Fitto accepted a bribe of 500,000 euros from Rome businessman Giampaolo Angelucci when he was governor of the southern region of Puglia between 2000 and 2005. Fitto, who served as regional affairs minister from May 2008 to November 2011, was also found to have intervened illegally to ensure a company called Fiorita won a contract for all cleaning services for public health authorities in Puglia. He was found to have made sure a contract worth 198 million euros was awarded to a company owned by Angelucci for the management of 11 assisted care residences too. Fitto, who is an MP for Berlusconi's PdL party, was banned from serving public office for five years. In Italy prison sentences for non-violent crimes do not usually become effective until the two-tier appeals system has been exhausted. The Bari court also handed prison sentences to 12 other people for involvement in the corruption, including Angelucci, who was given three years, six months. It ruled six million euros in assets be confiscated from a firm owned by Angelucci. PdL MP Maurizio Lupi said the decision was part of a ploy by magistrates to influence the result of the February 24-25 general election. "I thought the election campaign was conducted by politicians and, in some cases, magistrates who left the prosecutors' offices to lead political parties," said Lupi. "I was naive. In Italy, the judges conduct the election campaign".

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