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Justice min defends conduct as new evidence emerges

Leaked phone calls prompt cries for ouster over fraud case

15 November, 17:33
Justice min defends conduct as new evidence emerges (ANSA) - Rome, November 15 - Anna Maria Cancellieri, Italy's embattled justice minister, rebuffed calls to resign Friday after new evidence surfaced suggesting she may have meddled in a high-profile fraud case her critics link to family ties.

Next Wednesday, Cancellieri faces a confidence vote in parliament after allegedly soliciting prison authorities to release from prison to house arrest Giulia Ligresti, a member of a major Italian business dynasty who was arrested in July for alleged involvement in cooking the books at the Fonsai insurance group.

Last week she denied those allegations before both houses of parliament. On Friday, Italian daily La Repubblica cited leaked police reports which showed she and her husband maintained telephone contact with Ligresti's uncle Antonino.

Antonino's brother is Giulia's father Salvatore Ligresti, the family patriarch and former honorary chairman of Fonsai, who is also under house arrest along with two former executives from the insurance company.

So far Cancellieri had not told parliament she was in touch with the Ligresti family, which has links to hers. The minister's son, Piergiorgio Peluso, is a former manager at the insurance group and received a whopping five-million-euro severance payoff after a short spell there.

In a statement she argued she "never lied to parliament or prosecutors", and said she was merely seeking medical advice from Antonino Ligresti, a doctor, and that she would not resign.

Cancellieri's detractors include the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, who called for the confidence vote next week. Others include Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, head of the left-wing SEL party. "The minister should have tendered her resignation," said Vendola.

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