Recognise this fat buffoon on the left? (Not Berlusconi, the one with glasses.) There's no reason why you should unless you're an Italian abroad and received some electoral bumph from his personalissimo party, Italiani nel Mondo - and, I hope, binned it as rapidly as possible. Either that, or you follow this blog with more attention than I deserve and recall him from a post some time ago, in which I described him as a smug bastard and gave a brief run down on his shameful - albeit shamelessly conducted - political career. His name is Sergio De Gregorio and he is, god help us all, a senator for at least the next five days.
He may not be quite so smug today because he's being investigated for associating with the Calabrian Mafia. Apparently some plain-clothes policemen filmed him at a dinner during which he mediated for the powerful Ficara clan in their bid to buy an army barracks. Naturally, De Gregorio denies this and claims to be 'disconcerted' by the accusation. This is what most Italian politicians say when they're caught with their fingers in the till. 'I was just having a convivial meeting,' he says.
He doesn't seem in the least 'disconcerted' that he was having dinner with known Mafiosi in the run up to local elections. Why should he be? Berlusconi, his lord and paymaster, never is. And guess what De Gregorio's giving him in the photograph above. Something called the Premio Orgoglio Italiano (Italian Pride Prize). You couldn't make it up.