Seven academics held over exam rigging

Police in the central Italian city of Florence arrested seven university lecturers in tax law on suspicion of rigging exams. A further 22 professors were banned from university teaching and "any academic role" for 12 months.

The seven academics were put under house arrest, police said.

Italian finance police searched over 150 locations on Friday as part of the investigation including public offices, private homes and legal practices.

The suspects acted "according to a logic of divvying up territorial spoils and an exchange of favours of mutual benefit," said investigators.

"They did not evaluate candidates on the basis of merit but according to their personal, professional or group interests."

The arrests came amid a probe into the alleged exam rigging that has targeted a total 59 academics including former Italian finance minister Augusto Fantozzi, who is currently a law professor and rector of Giustino Fortunato University in Benevento, near Naples.

The criminal probe began when a research fellow at the University of Florence claimed he came under intense pressure from several professors to withdraw his candidacy for an exam to qualify as a tax-law teacher in favour of a less qualified candidate.

The researcher was allegedly promised a pass in the next exam in return, but he refused and went to police.

The probe, which centered on national public exams in 2012-2013, uncovered a network of "numerous" law lecturers at a various Italian universities who "systematically clinched corrupt deals", investigators said.

Some of the law professors implicated in the probe also sat on several national commissions, according to investigators.