(ANSA) – Palermo, July 13 – Palermo prosecutors on Wednesday requested that Agriculture Minister Saverio Romano be sent to trial for alleged Mafia association.
The prosecutors were forced to make the indictment request after a preliminary hearing judge rejected their petition for the case to be dropped four days ago.
In March President Giorgio Napolitano had expressed reservations about Romano’s appointment as agriculture minister when swearing him because the MP was among the suspects in a probe into politicians allegedly having dealings with Mafiosi in exchange for electoral support.
The investigation led to the former governor of Sicily, Salvatore Cuffaro, being imprisoned in January, when his final appeal against a seven-year term for helping the Mafia failed. ”I don’t intend to comment on an act the Palermo Prosecutor’s office was obliged to make after eight years of investigations and two requests for the case to be dropped,” Romano said Wednesday.
In the request, the prosecutors said Romano ”consciously and effectively contributed to the support and reinforcement of Mafia association in order to acquire electoral support by entertaining relations with numerous high-ranking members” of Cosa Nostra.
The prosecutors said Romano and Cuffaro had agreed to a request from a leading Mafia boss, Nino Mandala’, to have a man put on to a centrist party list for regional elections in 2001.
Romano joined the cabinet this year after being part of a group of lawmakers who have changed sides recently to support Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government and help it survive after its majority in parliament was slashed by an internal split.
He left centrist Catholic party UDC in September and is part of the self-styled ”responsible” group of lawmakers.
Another preliminary judge will decide whether the case will go to trial.