Italy minister resigns amid abuse of power, corruption probes

Agence France Presse

Posted at Jan 27 2014 07:23 AM | Updated as of Jan 27 2014 03:23 PM

ROME - Italy's Agriculture Minister resigned Sunday amid allegations of abuse of power over the appointment of staff in the public healthcare system and in the wake of an investigation into the management of European Union funds for agriculture.

"I am resigning as minister. I cannot remain part of a government which has not defended my honour," Nunzia De Girolamo said on Twitter.

De Girolamo was accused this month of exerting improper influence over the choice of healthcare managers in the city of Benevento in the Campania region, following revelations in the media of phone-tapped conversations in 2012.

She is the second minister to step down from Prime Minister Enrico Letta's shaky coalition government.

On Saturday, allegations of malpractice emerged against her ministry after Italy's financial police confirmed they carried out an on-site search this week as part of an investigation into the distribution of EU funds, Italian media reported.

Investigators are looking into discrepancies in the distribution of some 8.9 billion euros ($12.18 billion) for agricultural investment which were given to Italy from 2007 to 2013, according to the Repubblica daily.

De Girolamo, who is not currently under investigation, said in a statement Saturday that the police probe centered on a period before she took office.

While the EU determined where part of the funds were invested, the ministry was tasked with distributing the remaining capital through the AGEA coordinating company, which the government holds a 51 percent stake in, media reports said.