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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 21:17 GMT
Sicily politician sent for trial
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Salvatore Cuffaro
Salvatore Cuffaro's trial will begin in February 2005
Sicily's top politician has been sent for trial on charges of leaking information to the Mafia about police investigations into organised crime.

Salvatore Cuffaro, the head of Sicily's regional government, denies wrongdoing and says he does not fear the courts.

Mr Cuffaro is a member of the centre-right Christian Democrat party, one of five in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government.

His trial, and that of 12 other alleged informers, will begin on 1 February.

Investigators believe the group of local officials and politicians have been in regular contact with Mafia bosses, including Bernardo Provenzano, the almost legendary head of the Sicilian Mafia.

Mr Provenzano has been a fugitive from justice for more than 30 years and has managed constantly to outwit the police in their attempts to capture him.

Mr Cuffaro is also at the centre of a dispute between Rome and the local authorities in Sicily over controversial plans to build a string of new hotels in the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago just north of Messina.

Planning regulations there are being ignored in an attempt to develop the islands, a World Heritage site, as a tourist centre.


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