ROME (Reuters) - The Italian parliament voted on Tuesday to lift immunity from arrest for one of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s oldest associates, implicated in a massive bribery scandal linked to a flood barrier project in Venice.
Giancarlo Galan, a former governor of the Veneto region and ex-minister and one of the founding members of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, has been accused of taking bribes to smooth approvals for companies involved in the project.
As a member of parliament, Galan enjoys immunity from arrest which can only be lifted after a special vote.
Prosecutors allege he was paid what amounted to a salary of one million euros a year from the consortium behind the flood barriers project and took other perks including decoration of his luxurious country house.
He denies all the accusations against him.
More than 30 people have been arrested in the investigation into a complicated series of kickbacks connected to the 5 billion euro public works project designed to limit flood damage to the lagoon city.
The consortium behind the project is accused of constructing an elaborate system of inflated invoices to hide millions of euros in bribes to politicians from most of the main parties.
Coming hard on the heels of a separate corruption investigation into the Milan Expo 2015, it has revived memories of the “Bribesville” scandals of the 1990s which destroyed Italy’s old party system and helped bring Berlusconi to power.
Although Galan’s case has no direct impact on Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the case risks exacerbating tensions with Forza Italia, which has been cooperating with the government over a series of constitutional reforms.
Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Catherine Evans