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1981: Italy in crisis as cabinet resigns

The Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani and his coalition cabinet have resigned following a scandal over membership of a Masonic lodge.

It follows a police raid on the Arezzo home of financier Lucio Gelli in March that uncovered a list of hundreds of members of the P2 (Propaganda Two) Masonic lodge.

Among those on the list were leading members of the armed forces, civil servants, top bankers, industrialists and newspaper editors. Many have denied that they were members of the lodge

The Italian Communist Party had said it would call for a no-confidence vote in parliament unless the cabinet resigned over revelations that several prominent politicians were members of P2.

Flaminio Piccoli, secretary of the Christian Democrats, said: "Membership of the party and adherence to the Freemasons cannot be other than incompatible."

The Minister of Justice, Adolfo Sarti, resigned last week amid allegations that he had applied for admission to the lodge.

Senator Sarti has denied he made any attempt to join P2 and, in a letter to the prime minister, said he had been forced out of government because his name was tainted in a "slanderous campaign".

'Secret society'

Two other ministers and 30 MPs have been included in a list of alleged members of P2, which is now under investigation.

P2 is one of more than 520 Masonic lodges which belong to the Grand Orient of Italy, the principal Masonic organisation in the country.

The lodge has been described as "a state within a state" amid allegations that it plotted to carry out a right-wing coup in Italy.

A three-man commission appointed by the government has been set up to establish whether the lodge was a "secret society" of a type banned under the constitution.

Prime Minister Forlani has met with President Sandro Pertini to submit the resignation of the cabinet following a meeting with his ministers earlier in the day.

But the President has made it clear he did not want a general election to take place. "With all the problems facing the Italian people," he said, "they certainly do not need a dissolution of parliament."

In Context
In the wake of the scandal, a police chief shot himself and a former minister was rushed to hospital after reportedly swallowing barbiturates.

Licio Gelli, the Grand Master of the P2 lodge, fled to Switzerland after the P2 membership lists were discovered.

He was arrested while trying to withdraw tens of millions of dollars from a special bank account in Geneva and found guilty of fraud arising from the 1982 collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, which had close ties to the Vatican.

He then escaped from a Swiss prison and went to live in hiding in South America until 1987 when he gave himself up and was extradited to Italy.

In 1998 he fled from his home in Tuscany while on parole but Italian police tracked him down to Cannes on the French Riviera. He was extradited a second time to begin a 12-year prison sentence in Italy.


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