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ROME (Reuters) - The head of an Italian tax collection agency and four employees were arrested on Wednesday on charges of pocketing around 100 million euros ($129.35 million) from the money they gathered and spending it on private planes, parties and yachts.
The news will infuriate Italians who have had to dig deep to pay higher taxes, imposed to rein in the country's massive debt, while watching a succession of scandals involving the misuse of public funds.
Tributi Italia (Italy Taxes) collected local taxes under contract for 400 town councils, but finance police in the northern city of Genoa said the agency's boss, Giuseppe Saggese, set up a system to siphon funds into the agency's own bank accounts.
The money was used to pay for "private planes, yachts, expensive cars, luxury holidays, extravagant parties and music concerts," said the force in a statement. Saggese himself pocketed at least 20 million euros, it added.
Mario Monti's technocrat government is trying to crack down on tax evasion. Resulting tough measures adopted by collection agencies have created widespread resentment.
The president of the regional government of Lazio resigned last month over a case involving embezzlement of party funds and members of the Campania, Lombardy and Calabria governments are also under investigation for misuse of public money.
Last week police raided the offices of all the political parties represented in the regional government of Piedmont, seizing documents related to expense claims dating back to 2008.
Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Andrew Heavens