The Italian Almanac

Gustavo Selva

Fake Emergency

A senator who fooled an ambulance driver into taxiing him to a TV interview has been given a six-month suspended sentence and fined 200 euros. Gustavo Selva, 81, used the emergency services to dodge the gridlock that gripped Rome during United States President George W.Bush's visit to Rome last June.

The senator from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia was found guilty of aggravated fraud for feigning an illness in order to have an ambulance take him to what the driver thought was his doctor's office. At the time there were reports that he had even threatened to get one of the ambulance staff fired unless he got to his 'urgent heart appointment' as soon as possible.

The former TV and print journalist's proud public admission of the 'trick' sparked an outcry from all sides of the political spectrum and he initially offered to resign, only to backtrack later. The senator's ambulance-jacking exploits were later cited by some commentators as a sign that Italy's political class has become a ''caste'' that enjoys a privileged existence.