ROME - A military trial in Rome over the use of allegedly vulnerable vehicles in Afghanistan has taken a twist with a second apparent suicide connected to the case.
An Italian military colonel, Antonio Muscogiuri, 50, was found hanged in his barracks in northern Italy this month, two days after he was told he would stand trial, alongside five other officers, on charges of renting vehicles in Afghanistan that used below-standard armor plating.
The probe by military investigators kicked off seven years ago with another apparent suicide, when the body of Capt. Marco Callegaro, 37, was discovered in his office in Kabul in July 2010 with a gunshot wound in the head.
Italy has had troops in Afghanistan since 2002, running operations from the western province of Herat. Today, it still has about 1,000 soldiers in the country.
Working with Italian military staff, Callegaro was reportedly involved in plans to rent three armored civilian vehicles for use by senior commanders in the city from a local company. The deal was due to cost
€100,000 (U.S. $108,940) for five month's rent.
But Callegaro told his parents something was amiss at work. "My son told me by phone and in writing that they were doing something that was not right," his father said. On July 18, Callegaro wrote a note to himself stating: "I have double-checked various things. Now I realize."
Investigators later alleged faked documents were produced to allow for the delivery of vehicles featuring a lighter armor than officially stated. The vehicles delivered should have cost €35,000 less to rent than the sum paid, it has been reported.
"I have always had an idea that the suicide was staged by someone who had something to hide," Callegaro's father said.
The captain's death triggered the inquiry, which led to the questioning of dozens of officials and to the decision this month to send six officials to face a military trial.
On April 14, Italian Member of Parliament Paolo Bolognesi named the Afghan company that supplied the vehicles as Ali Mohammad Bafaitz Trading Co. Ltd. In official parliamentary questionubg, he asked if Italy had continued to do business with the firm after the death of Callegaro.
"The death of Capt. Callegaro was hurriedly and incredibly deemed a private and family matter in 2010," the family's lawyer, Andrea Speranzoni, said. "Now the death of Col. Muscogiuri brings pain, as well as questions to which I hope we will get answers.
"There are many more mysteries and questions to clear up."