ROME — A member of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL) was arrested Tuesday on charges of embezzlement amid a financial scandal gripping the Lazio regional government, Italian media reported.
Franco Fiorito, the former PDL leader for the region which includes Rome, was arrested by Italy's financial police and placed in custody, according to ANSA news agency, to prevent him from tampering with evidence against him.
Nicknamed "Batman", reportedly because he managed to fall off a Harley Davidson motorcycle while it was still on a kickstand, Fiorito is the latest to be caught up in a scandal which forced the PDL's regional president to resign last week.
He is suspected of embezzling around one million euros ($1.2 million) of public funds, though he has repeatedly denied the charges.
According to media reports, Fiorito, who had access to the party funds, rents at least three apartments in Rome and owns a yacht and a villa by the sea, as well as several luxury cars and an apartment in Spain.
The scandal has infuriated recession-hit Italians, particularly following the discovery that regional assembly members have given themselves big pay rises over the last two years, as well as increased regional party donations.
The turmoil, which has come as a harsh blow to a PDL already suffering in the polls, has been compounded by pictures of lavish and steamy parties held by members of Berlusconi's party, splashed over the media in the past few weeks.
Magistrates have opened an inquiry into a dozen councillors suspected of having misused funds in a case which has seen even famed party goer Silvio Berlusconi call for changes to the system and tighter financial controls.
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