Italy minister Carlo Malinconico quits over hotel bill

Carlo Malinconico (file pic 2009) The junior minister was stepping down to safeguard the government's credibility

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Italian junior minister Carlo Malinconico has resigned because of his connections with a businessman now being investigated for corruption.

At least part of his bills were allegedly paid for at a five-star hotel in the Tuscan resort of Il Pellicano in 2007 and 2008, newspaper reports said.

As PM Mario Monti's undersecretary, he had responsibility for the publishing and newspaper industries.

The government came to office in November promising transparency.

Mr Malinconico, 61, who was chief-of-staff in a previous government, insists he had tried to pay the bill but was told that someone else had dealt with it.

Newspapers identified the man behind the payment as businessman Francesco Maria De Vito Piscicelli, under investigation for building contracts secured in the aftermath of the 2008 Aquila earthquake.

Mr Malinconico says he did not know of the bill-payer's identity until recently and denies any wrongdoing.

He has, however, said that he asked an acquaintance on Italy's public works commission, Angelo Balducci, to help him secure a reservation at the hotel.

Mr Balducci has himself become caught up in a corruption scandal linked to contracts awarded at a 2009 G8 summit.

When former EU commissioner Mario Monti took the helm of Italy's unelected new government last November, he demanded that it be free of conflicts of interest.

A cabinet statement said Mr Malinconico was stepping down in an attempt to "better defend his image and honour in all institutions, as well as to safeguard the credibility and efficiency of the government".

The BBC's Rome correspondent Alan Johnston says that by Italian standards this is a rather minor affair, but that in the current climate, questions surrounding the junior minister's hotel bill made it impossible for him to continue in office.

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