Camorra-linked ex-Berlusconi undersecretary arrested

Nicola Cosentino suspected of unfair competition in petrol sales

(ANSA) - Naples, April 3 - The Camorra mafia-linked politician Nicola Cosentino, a former Berlusconi government undersecretary, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of extortion and unfair competition in connection with the sale of motor fuel in the southern Campania region. Twelve other arrest warrants were also issued in the probe, including ones against Cosentino's brothers Giovanni and Antonio and Pasquale and Antonio Zagaria, brothers of Michele Zagaria, a former boss of the powerful Casalesi clan of Campania's Camorra mafia whose death threats have forced anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano into 24-hour police protection.
    The ex-prefect of the Campania city of Caserta, former centre-right lawmaker Maria Elena Stasi, is also being probed in relation to the case for suspected corruption and extortion.
    The Cosentino family, which own a number of petrol stations in the province of Caserta, is suspected of having used illicit methods including extortion and bribery to damage their competitors, with the help of alleged ties with the Casalesi. Investigators say Casalesi bosses banned their affiliates from demanding 'protection money' from service stations belonging to the Cosentino family.
    Cosentino, a former economy undersecretary and ex regional coordinator for former premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (Pdl) party, is already on trial for alleged collusion with the Casalesi in relation to the construction of a shopping mall near Caserta. Prosecutors in that case claimed he was the "national reference point" of the Casalesi, who come from his home town of Casal di Principe.
    Cosentino denied all wrongdoing and Berlusconi described the case against him as an example of alleged judicial persecution.
    However, he did drop Cosentino from his centre-right party's candidate lists ahead of general elections in February 2013 amid concern over a possible political backlash.


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