Pino Maniaci, the owner and presenter of a local TV station renowned for fighting the Sicilian mafia is under investigation for extorting money and employment from local officials, police said on Wednesday.
Maniaci, director of Telejato, has been barred from the provinces of Palermo and Trapani under a probe by anti-mafia investigators, police said.
He threatened local officials that his TV campaigns would get them sacked, demanding cash and even a local health service job for his girlfriend, investigators said.
"If they don't do what I say, I'll send them packing," Maniaci is heard saying in a police wiretap.
"You don't know how powerful I am - I'll make sure you get that job ," Maniaci allegedly says in another wiretapped phone conversation with his girlfriend.
Maniaci is suspected of extorting the health service job from Salvo Lo Biundo, mayor of the town of Partinico, between Palermo and the western Sicilian port city of Trapani.
In another conversation recorded in nearby Borgetto's town hall, Maniaci allegedly warns the mayor of a potentially damaging report due from the prefect or top government official in Palermo.
"Give me 466 euros... I'll let you know what they say on Saturday, the prefect is a friend of mine," Maniaci tells Borgetto's mayor Gioacchino De Luca.
Maniaci used his TV station "to build a real system of power, in order to increase his popularity and personal gain," investigating judges in Palermo said.
Wiretapped conversations also showed "the degree of subjugation of local officials," the investigating judges said