London, Feb 21 (ANI): Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has become mired in yet another controversy in run-up to the nation's regional elections.
Just weeks after shrugging off a series of sex scandals, Berlusconi is now involved in a new scandal that includes sex, bribes and the exploitation of the earthquake that struck the town of L'Aquila in April last year, killing 307 and leaving 50,000 homeless.
At that time, the way Berlusconi handled the reconstruction process was widely applauded. But now, transcripts obtained by magistrates through wire-taps have led to allegations that one of his political allies swapped rebuilding contracts for sexual favours, reports The Guardian.
As per the transcripts, two building contractors boasted that ties to the government would win them lucrative work.
"I was laughing at 3.30am in bed this morning," said Francesco de Vito Piscicelli, referring to the precise time of the tragedy.
The magistrates wiretapped Piscicelli and since the revelation three public officials and a contractor have been arrested. Twenty-seven people are under investigation, including Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection agency, who is often seen at Berlusconi's side.
"These magistrates should be ashamed of themselves," was Berlusconi's first reaction. But after the news spread to newspapers, the prime minister has retreated into silence.
Bertolaso has insisted that the alleged "sexual favour" was no more than a massage, but admitted: "I may not have checked things well enough."
Italy is holding regional elections at the end of March (ANI)