Italy Rocked by Corruption, Drug Scandals
By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News
ROME – Franco Fiorito, a member of the regional council of Lazio, the Italian region that includes Rome, was known ironically among his friends as Batman. It was a nickname he earned when he managed to fall off a Harley Davidson still on a kickstand.
But rather than a superhero, he looks like an actor out of “The Sopranos” with his slicked-back hairstyle, striped double-breasted suit, bulky figure and bigger than life personality.
Fiorito, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL), was accused earlier this month of embezzling at least $1.5 million of public funds to pay for everything from oyster dinners, to hotels, aides and apartments.
Fiorito, who has since resigned, fought the allegations by telling investigators that fellow party members behaved worse than he did – putting the spotlight on regional president Renata Polverini.
The scandal proved too much for Polverini, who resigned on Monday, and damaged the reputation of Berlusconi’s already weakened party.
She denied allegations of any wrong-doing on her part, but admitted that the scandal had exposed infighting within the PDL party and had stripped the regional council of some legitimacy.
But most importantly, it stands as a symbol of a political class that has lost touch with the electorate, and carries on living a lavish lifestyle financed with public funds at a time when most Italians struggle to get by.
“Why did they call him Batman? He sounds more like the joker to me,” said Carla Cecchini, a receptionist from Rome who was waiting at a bus stop in Rome on Wednesday morning. “He is not even that smart. We know they are all thieves, but this guy didn’t even try to hide it. He is shameless.”
Toga party pix
Apparently Fiorito is not as brazen as another member of the regional council.
Only days ago, pictures emerged of a lavish toga partyorganized in 2010 by Carlo de Romanis,