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New York politicians held in bribery probe

NEW YORK — Six New York politicians were arrested today for their alleged role in a bribery scandal that saw a prominent Democrat pay top Republicans for permission to run on their ticket in the city’s upcoming mayoral race, prosecutors said.

Democratic state Senator Malcolm Smith and five Republicans that he has been alleged to have tried to bribe were arrested this morning, an official at the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

Prosecutors described the scheme as an attempt to game the city’s first wide-open mayoral election in more than a decade. New York will choose its first new mayor in 12 years in November when Michael Bloomberg’s third term comes to an end.

The charges include bribery, extortion, and wire and mail fraud. The politicians could not be reached immediately for comment.

“A show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. “The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.”

Authorities arrested five Republicans: City Councilman Daniel Halloran, Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret.

Prosecutors said that Tabone and Savino received a total of $40,000 in bribes for promising their support of Smith. Halloran was said to have received $20,500 for setting up a meeting with people Smith believed were supporters who were in fact a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent.

Since 2000, Smith has represented a district in eastern Queens including Jamaica as well as wealthier neighbourhoods near Nassau County.

Bloomberg, a former Democrat, changed his party affiliation to Republican before his first run in 2001, and later switched his party affiliation to independent. (Reuters)

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