Two arrested for hacking ex-premier Renzi emails

Italian police on Tuesday arrested two people for hacking the email accounts of former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and other top officials including several Vatican cardinals.

Leading institutions, bankers, businessmen and the head of Italy's tax police were among tens of thousands of email accounts hacked by nuclear engineer Giulio Occhionero, 45, and his sister Francesca Maria Occhionero, 49, according to investigators.

The pair face charges of procuring state security information and illegally intercepting electronic communications.

They are said to have run a botnet - a network of computers harnessed without the owners' knowledge. It is not clear what the information was used for.

"Evidence of extortion has not been uncovered," Roberto Di Legami, director of Italy's specialised cyber police unit, told Adnkronos.

"We're trying to understand if the information gathered - especially the financial data - could have been of economic value," Di Legami said.

The investigation is ongoing and began eight months ago, he said.

By planting malicious software through emails, it is thought the Occhioneros were able to harvest sensitive information for years.

Most of the hacked data was stored in the US and is now being sent back to Italy for analysis.

The Occhioneros are London residents who were domiciled in Rome and were well known in the financial world. Police did not state where the brother and sister were detained but it is understood the arrests took place in Italy.

Renzi stood down as premier in December after a crushing defeat in a referendum on planned constitutional reforms which his centre-left government claimed would streamline Italy's political machinery.