File photo: Chris Helgren


Rome - Two people were arrested and three placed under house arrest on Tuesday in the latest corruption scandal to cloud reconstruction work in L'Aquila, a central Italian town heavily damaged by an earthquake five years ago.

Luciano Marchetti, who was the deputy government commissar for the reconstruction of the city, and Alessandra Mancinelli, an official from the Culture Ministry, were among those held. The others were businessmen.

Prosecutors charged that contracts to rebuild quake-damaged churches were awarded in return for bribes. They said they filmed the exchange of €10 000 (about R146 000) related to the €19 million tender for the Santa Maria Paganica church.

About 15 more people were placed under investigation for their alleged involvement in the affair, including Father Daniele Pinton, a well-known local priest who was rescued from the rubble on the night of the earthquake.

L'Aquila was struck by a magnitude-6.3 quake on April 6, 2009, which killed 309 people and left tens of thousands homeless. Slow-moving reconstruction work has been hindered by bureaucratic wrangling, lack of funding and a string of corruption scandals. In January, eight local politicians, including former deputy mayor Roberto Riga, were held as a result of another investigation.

Graft scandals have been rife in Italy in recent months. Prosecutors have made high-profile arrests in relation to postwar aid to Iraq, the building of dams against high tides in Venice and preparations for Expo 2015, the world fair due to be hosted in Milan next year. - Sapa-dpa