ROME -- Italy's justice minister is warning that rampant corruption by politicians' pilfering public funds is reaching unprecedented levels, just as the government is demanding sacrifices from its citizens to keep the country from succumbing to the European debt crisis.
Minister Paola Severino says corruption is worse than during 1990s kickback probes, nicknamed "Bribesville," that brought down an entire ruling class.
In an interview Sunday with Sky TG-24 TV, Severino said corruption is "extremely widespread in a context of great political weakness."
The non-elected technocrat government of economist Premier Mario Monti has slashed public spending, raised taxes and made Italians work longer for their pensions.
Corruption probes have rocked regional governments in Rome, the financial capital of Milan, and elsewhere. Several political parties hit by corruption scandals face elections next spring.