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Last Updated: Monday, 9 October 2006, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
Italy MPs 'caught in drugs sting'
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Cannabis
Twelve of the politicians allegedly tested positive for cannabis
A popular Italian satirical television show has exposed what appears to be widespread drug use among the country's parliamentarians.

In secret tests for a number of illegal substances the programme said 16 of 50 lower house deputies tested positive for cocaine and cannabis.

Almost a third appeared to have taken the drugs in the past 36 hours.

The show, Le Lene, (the Hyenas) is well-known for spoofs and pranks that embarrass public figures.

And this was a clever sting that will no doubt embarrass a number of politicians in the Italian government.

The programme sent a reporter to interview lower house deputies allegedly for a programme about the 2007 draft budget currently going through parliament.

I have always said that if a police dog went into certain venues where official politics are conducted first its nose would go on the blink and then it would give up
Daniele Capezzone
Radical Party leader

But unbeknown to each of them, the make-up artist employed by the show was dabbing their brow with swabs, and their perspiration was later tested for cannabis and cocaine.

'Not surprised'

Twelve of the 50 politicians from Italy's lower house tested positive for cannabis and four for cocaine.

Le Lene is shown on Italia One, a channel owned by the family of the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Although the 16 politicians have not been named, the story is playing big in Italian newspapers.

The social solidarity minister, Paulo Ferrero, said: "Personally I don't appreciate this form of intrusion into people's private lives but the test results seem to confirm what is widely believed about drug use on the part of many parliamentarians."

Another politician, Daniele Capezzone, leader of the Radical Party, which has waged a long campaign for the legalisation of cannabis, said he wasn't at all surprised by the show's findings.

"I have always said that if a police dog went into certain venues where official politics are conducted," he said, "first its nose would go on the blink and then it would give up".




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How the 'drug sting' took place



SEE ALSO
Berlusconi relishes power of TV
23 Feb 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
27 Jun 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Italy
27 Jun 06 |  Country profiles



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