Italy's last crown prince arrested in racketeering investigation

Just as it seemed there was no room for more scandal in Italian life, the country's last crown prince has been arrested amid an investigation into racketeering, gambling and prostitution.

Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, whose right of succession was abolished with the rest of the monarchy in a referendum in 1946, was arrested at the Italian lakes late on Friday and driven almost 1,000km to Potenza in the south where the investigation has its headquarters.

"The prince" - as he is referred to by lawyers and aides - is 69 and was one of more than a dozen people targeted in an investigation partially involving a casino in Campione d'Italia, an Italian enclave wholly surrounded by Switzerland on the shore of Lake Lugano.

He is scheduled to be interrogated tomorrow and has stated his innocence. The casino said it had no knowledge of any illegal activity and had started an internal investigation. Aides said monarchists were posting messages on websites and organising bus trips to the prison to express support.

Vittorio Emanuele was nine when his father Umberto, Italy's last king, went into exile. He has been in legal trouble before, once accused of firing a gun from a boat which killed someone on an adjacent yacht. He was acquitted of manslaughter. The prince also damaged his family's reputation in the 1990s by refusing to apologise for race laws discriminating against Jews which his grandfather Vittorio Emanuele III signed in 1938.

The former royals were allowed back into Italy only in 2002 after a law change.

The prince's arrest follows the recent request by prosecutors for a trial of Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister, in a bribery case, and last year's scandals in the financial sector that saw arrests of prominent businesspeople and the resignation of Antonio Fazio, governor of the Bank of Italy.

News of the former royal's incarceration jostled on Sunday's front pages with another scandal, the failure of the national football team to beat the US in the World Cup. Italian football is itself mired in an investigation involving owners and managers of clubs, match officials, betting, player transfer accounting and the role of players' agents.

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