Rome prosecutors are probing Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero of the Communist Refoundation Party in connection with his controversial nomination of a former Red Brigade terrorist as part of a government advisory panel on drugs.
Ferrero has already annulled the appointment of Susanna Ronconi and the minister himself revealed on Thursday that prosecutors were looking into the nomination which enraged right-wingers in parliament.
Although he had initially defended the choice of Ronconi, he said legal advisors had judged the nomination illegitimate because she has been banned from public office.
Sources at the welfare ministry confirmed on Friday that prosecutors have sent Ferrero formal notice that he is being investigated. Under Italian law this does not necessarily mean he will be prosecuted. The probe aims to establish whether the minister can be charged with abuse of office.
Details of the case have been given to the Tribunal of Ministers, the only body which can carry out full investigations involving members of the government.