(dpa) - Italy's Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio is under investigation for allegedly accepting gifts from companies involved in the removal of rubbish in Naples, news reports said Friday.
The probe stems from telephone conversations intercepted by prosecutors in the southern town of Potenza in which employees of a travel agency discussed several of the minister's holiday travel and accommodation arrangements, reports in Italy's main newspapers said.
The Visetur travel agency which has been awarded contracts for organizing several of Pecoraro Scanio's official visits arranged the minister's stay in a luxury hotel in Milan over the Christmas holidays, the Corriere della Sera daily said.
The minister's Milan hotel bill was allegedly picked up by Visetur, while several private trips abroad made by the minister were allegedly paid by businessmen who late last year wanted to tender for a contract to transport rubbish from Naples to a incinerator owned by them in Greece.
The tender contract was never awarded, Corriere della Sera said.
The Environment Ministry was not immediately available to comment on the reports on Friday morning.
Pecoraro Scanio, a Green Party member of outgoing Romano Prodi's centre-left government, has faced numerous calls for his resignation since rubbish started to pile up in and around Naples late in December 2007.
Rubbish removal trucks stopped operating after the city's land-fill sites had become full leaving many streets full of rubbish.
Pecoraro Scanio and other officials have blamed the crisis on the local mafia which they say handles the illegal disposal of refuse in Naples.
Reports of the probe come just over a week before parliamentary elections on April 13-14 in which Pecoraro Scanio is a candidate for the Left Rainbow coalition of Communists and Greens.