Head of Italian Space Agency quits amid corruption probe

by Reuters
Friday, 7 February 2014 17:07 GMT

The Italian flag is seen fluttering in the wind at the Quirinale palace in Rome, August 2, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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ITALY-SPACEAGENCY/:Head of Italian Space Agency quits amid corruption probe

ROME, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) resigned on Friday "to protect its integrity, reputation and prestige" after police searched its offices as part of a corruption and bribery investigation.

Enrico Saggese, the body's president since 2009, is under investigation along with six others accused of various crimes including corruption, bribery and abuse of office.

Saggese denies all accusations against him, ASI said in a statement, but he resigned from the agency with immediate effect.

Rome prosecutors Paolo Ielo and Mario Palazzi said contracts to organise ASI events were given to companies in return for money or gifts.

Police also seized documents relating to the appointment of unqualified managers. Italian media reported that ASI had hired a former tango dancer with no aerospace background as a consultant.

Saggese, 64, had been president of ASI since 2009. The agency helped to build the International Space Station, works closely with the U.S. space body NASA and leads Italian research into astrophysics and cosmology. (Reporting by Naomi O'Leary and Antonella Cinelli; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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