A professor at the University of Messina medical school has been arrested for allegedly instigating the Mafia-style assassination of a colleague in January.
Diego Cuzzocrea, former university rector, his deputy and secretary have also been questioned by a judge on suspicion of complicity. Police had discovered a print-shop, which was producing forged degree certificates, a day earlier.
Only a few months ago 35 Messina academics were arrested on charges of selling exam passes. Professor Cuzzocrea decided to reinstate them pending trial.
Giuseppe Longo, a gastroenterologist, is accused of "association with the Mafia". He is suspected of being the lynchpin between the dreaded Calabrian Mafia and the university's multi-million pound outside contracts, and of having ordered Mafia hit-men to shoot Matteo Bottari as he sat in his car at traffic lights in January.
According to the investigating judges, the two were rivals. Both men were considered very close to the former rector, who resigned in early June after being investigated for allegedly staging threats against himself so as to appear a victim of the criminal infiltration of the university.
Investigators believe that Professor Bottari, the son-in-law of Professor Cuzzocrea's predecessor, was murdered over the assignment of lucrative outside contracts for supplies and equipment.
One of the Messina firms under investigation is alleged to have overcharged by up to 300 per cent. It is controlled by two of Professor Cuzzocrea's brothers and Cuzzocrea himself had been a partner.
Professor Cuzzocrea first "suspended himself" as rector but after five hours of police interrogation, he resigned. His duties were taken over by deputy rector Giacomo Ferra". Now Professor Ferra" is also a suspect, as is his secretary Eugenio Capodicasa. Both have resigned and the university is now directed by the academic dean, pending new elections.
The head of Italy's Anti-Mafia Commission has described Messina University as "a can of worms". After Professor Longo's arrest, university minister Luigi Berlinguer said: "Things which are now coming to the surface were in the past concealed by omert" (the law of silence)".
He appealed to Messina's academics in the forthcoming elections for a new rector to use their votes to "help reform their university".