Italy's Northern League offices raided in corruption inquiry

MILAN Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:24am EST

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italian tax police have raided offices of the right-wing Northern League party, a close ally of former premier Silvio Berlusconi in coming elections, in an investigation into alleged corruption, a source close to the inquiry said on Wednesday.

Northern League leader Roberto Maroni and other officials of the regionalist party were present during the raids, carried out in the northern cities of Milan and Turin on Tuesday night, according to the source.

Police obtained some computer files and documents but were unable to complete their searches because the politicians argued that they were an infringement of the legal immunity rights granted to members of parliament, the source said.

Maroni told reporters that prosecutors had mistakenly believed that a Northern League official was connected with a company suspected of fraudulent bankruptcy and corruption.

"The investigation regards a company that has nothing to do with the League; we are not connected and so the case is closed," Maroni said.

He also denied that the League had claimed parliamentary immunity to prevent the search being completed.

Berlusconi is lagging in the polls and his alliance with the League is crucial to his strategy of preventing the centre-left winning a working majority in the February 24-25 vote.

(Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, writing by Gavin Jones; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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