Italy ups stakes in escalating diplomatic conflict with Switzerland
A "war of words" between Switzerland and Italy over Swiss handling of a corruption case in Ticino has escalated, with further criticism being levelled at the Swiss authorities.
The Italian finance minister, Ottaviano del Turco, renewed his criticism of Switzerland late on Thursday, calling for a revision of a judicial aid agreement which the two countries signed two years ago.
Del Turco said it had taken the arrest of a Ticino judge, Franco Verda - accused of corruption and collusion with a suspected Italian cigarette smuggler - to end years of uncooperative behaviour by Switzerland (see "Ticino judge denies corruption charges" on Swiss Affairs page).
In an interview on Ticino television, Del Turco accused Switzerland of underestimating the size of what he called one of the most dangerous criminal organisations in Europe.
His statements came hours after the Swiss government spokesman, vice-chancellor Achille Casanova, said Berne would be making a formal protest to Rome over previous comments by the finance minister.
Del Turco recently claimed the Swiss authorities had failed to give legal assistance in the case of Gerardo Cuomo, who was arrested on an Italian warrant in Switzerland in May on cigarette smuggling charges. Del Turco had also said Switzerland's banking system allowed Italian cigarette smugglers to hide their ill-gotten gains.
Casanova said Italian claims that it did not provide legal assistance were false, and that all necessary information was transmitted to the Italian authorities on request.
The Cuomo case led to the arrest of Verda three weeks ago. He was granted provisional bail on Thursday, but the special prosecutor said charges would be brought.
Verda allegedly warned Cuomo about the outcome of a court case dealing with confiscated Mafia money. Verda's wife, formerly Cuomo's lawyer, is suspected of receiving money for this information.
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