Rome

Monti and Berlusconi disagree over 'new Bribesville' claim

PM sees parallels with '90s graft scandal but with 'less hope'

Monti and Berlusconi disagree over 'new Bribesville' claim

Rome, February 15 - Mario Monti and Silvio Berlusconi came to loggerheads on Friday after the outgoing technocrat premier, leader of a reformist platform in upcoming elections, claimed 'parallels' with the 'Bribesville' scandals of the early 1990s. His comments came after the ex-premier caused a political stir by saying companies budgeted for bribes as a standard practice to land international contracts following the arrest of aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi on suspicion of international corruption over the sale of helicopters to India. ''Unfortunately (there are parallels), but with less hope,'' Monti told public broadcaster Rai3. ''In 1993 the action of the judiciary was liberating, and it was thought that this, combined with citizens' conscience, would put an end to the phenomenon,'' he continued in reference to the corruption scandals that took down the political establishment that had ruled Italy since the Second World War. ''Judicial action has continued but the conscience of those Italians who lead other Italians has grown complacent''. Monti also recalled how his government had struggled to pass adequate anti-corruption measures due to "resistance'' from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. Berlusconi categorically ruled out the claims of a new 'Bribesville', adding that Monti was ''desperate'' in view of a possible poor performance by his centrist formation in elections on February 24 and 25. ''This leads to desperation in their ranks and to senseless and inelegant statements,'' he concluded. Berlusconi is leading the centre-right election campaign against the centre left led by Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party (PD), the frontrunner before a pre-election blackout of opinion surveys kicked in last week. The two main coalitions are followed by the populist and anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Genoa comedian Beppe Grillo and then Monti's grouping.

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