Police said Tuesday they arrested the chairman and another top official of Italy's state energy conglomerate, the latest figures to fall in a nationwide scandal ensnaring business and political giants.
Word of the arrests of Gabriele Cagliari and Franco Ciatti at ENI, Italy's third-largest employer, sent share prices plunging on the Milan stock exchange. Cagliari, the ENI chairman, was arrested Monday night, and Ciatti, who heads its engineering unit Nuovo Pignone, was arrested Tuesday, police said.The arrests also dealt another blow to the Socialist Party. Ente
Nazionale Idrocarburi, or ENI, which has 130,000 employees, is considered the bailiwick of Socialists, the party worst hit by the scandal.
Italy's major political parties have divided the country's extensive public industries as a way to reward supporters with posts and exercise influence.
Hundreds of businessmen and politicians have been investigated or jailed in a yearlong corruption probe that began in Milan, Italy's financial capital. The deepening scandal is known as "tangen-topoli," or kickback city.
Most of those charged have been accused of violating political finance laws or taking or giving kickbacks for multimillion-dollar public works contracts.
Traders predicted the market index would be down 3 percent by the end of the trading day Tuesday, following an initial plunge of 4.6 percent.
The lira slipped to a 7-year low against the dollar when the American currency surged past the 1,600-lire mark.
Court officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cagliari and Ciatti were arrested on corruption charges.
The Italian news agency AGI said Cagliari was arrested Monday night, Ciatti early Tuesday.
ENI's groups produce and distribute everything from natural gas to chemicals to petroleum.