Italy investigates cop in VIP privacy scandal

The probe includes the late Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend. (Photo/AFP)

An Italian police officer accused of delving into the private files of VIPs and journalists has sparked a privacy scandal this week, fuelling outrage across the political spectrum.

Prosecutors are investigating the illegal accessing of information on hundreds of high-profile people, said to include figures as diverse as footballer Ronaldo, the rapper Fedez, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto and the late Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend.

The story dates back to 2022 when the newspaper Domani published an investigation into the income of Crosetto — then newly appointed to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's cabinet — revealing his work for defence companies.

He lodged a complaint, prompting an investigation that led to Pasquale Striano, an officer of the Guardia di Finanza financial crimes police, deployed to the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DNA).

Between November 2019 and November 2022, it later emerged, Striano made tens of thousands of searches in official databases in what investigating prosecutor Raffaele Cantone described as a "frantic search for information".

Some searches in the databases — which include information on ongoing legal proceedings, including over suspected financial transactions — were justified as part of his job.

But, in a hearing before a parliamentary committee on the mafia on Thursday, Cantone said his team was investigating 800 potentially irregular entries relating to 165 people, many of them "subjects in the public eye, so-called VIPs".

He said Striano is accused of illegal access to a computer system and publication of official information.

A separate strand of the investigation is also targeting an anti-mafia prosecutor in Rome, Antonio Laudati, suspected of having asked Striano to conduct four unjustified inquiries.

Striano's motivation remains unclear. The prosecutor said the officer was not cooperating with the inquiry and as yet, no financial benefit had emerged.

Cantone confirmed four journalists had also been targeted in the investigation.

'Soviet-style espionage'

Three of the journalists work with Domani, a small left-wing daily which regularly criticises political leaders of all sides, but particularly those on the right.

It was Domani which revealed that Crosetto had earned around 2.3 million euros between 2018 and 2021 from companies in the arms industry, highlighting a potential conflict of interest.

Domani said the trio are accused of improperly accessing computer systems in conjunction with Striano, and of revealing secrets, for which they risk five years in jail.

Political leaders in Italy have also reacted with outrage, from Meloni's right-wing government to the left-leaning opposition.

"It is very serious that in Italy there are state officials who have spent their time breaking the law by checking on ordinary citizens... and passing this information to the press," Meloni said earlier this week.

"Using public databases in this way has nothing to do with freedom of the press."

The far-right League party of Matteo Salvini, Meloni's deputy prime minister, called it "illegal Soviet-style espionage".

Elly Schlein, leader of the main opposition centre-left Democratic Party, s aid it was a "scandal of unprecedented gravity".

"It is crucial that these kind of things do not happen again," she said.


Source: TRT