Italian MPs sent themselves bogus death threats in order to qualify for bodyguards, a whistleblower has claimed.
The claim, which has not been verified, is one of several assertions made by a former parliamentary official calling himself Spider Truman.
A Facebook page he set up this week to protest against the lavish privileges enjoyed by Italian MPs -- the highest paid in Europe -- has attracted more than 350,000 followers.
The claims on the Facebook page and a related blog have fuelled widespread indignation among Italians that their MPs continue to be handsomely rewarded when the rest of the country is being asked to tighten its belt, amid fears that Italy's huge public debt and static growth render it vulnerable to a Greek-style meltdown.
The Italian parliament last week passed a €48bn austerity package.
In his blog, Spider Truman claims that some of Italy's 945 MPs and senators falsely report items such as laptop computers stolen and then claim for them through a parliamentary insurance scheme.
He also claimed that members of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies had sent themselves bogus death threats so that they could request an escort of armed bodyguards.
The 37-year-old whistleblower will not divulge his name but said he worked in the lower house of parliament for 15 years before losing his job this year.
The Facebook page has been inundated with tens of thousands of comments welcoming the exposure of MPs' alleged profligacy. One supporter said Italians should follow the example of Guy Fawkes and blow up parliament. (© Daily Telegraph, London)