'New Bribesville' hits Italy Inc before election
The companies at the centre of the scandals, which account for nearly 30 percent of Italy's blue-chip stocks index, have suffered heavy falls in their share prices in recent weeks.
Finmeccanica lost 11 percent in value in two days after the arrest of Orsi. Centre-right politicians criticised not only the judiciary but also Monti's government, arguing ministers should have replaced Orsi last year when he was first investigated.
Italy ranks 72th - between Brazil and Bulgaria - in a Transparency International index that measures corruption in a country as perceived by business managers, one of the worst scores among rich Western nations. Major EU competitors France and Spain rank 22nd and 30th, while Germany is in 13th place.
All of Italy's main parties have been implicated in graft, leaving many voters with the feeling that little has changed since the "Tangentopoli" scandals.
Among analysts there is, however, some sympathy for Berlusconi's view that Finmeccanica may be suffering for tougher enforcement in Italy than, they believe, in competitor nations against bribing foreign officials to win international tenders.
"For companies such as Finmeccanica, corruption is in a way the result of globalisation; it's the hidden price that a company must pay to get access to certain markets," said Stefano Zamagni, a professor of economics at the University of Bologna.
"It is obvious that the economic damage is great."
Other major exporting countries also prosecute companies in similar cases of corrupting foreign officials to make sales.
Many in business say they welcome efforts by Monti, a former EU commissioner who is
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