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ROME, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors arrested seven people on Monday on suspicion of bribing officials to cover up a health and environmental scandal at Europe's largest steel plant, justice officials said on Monday.
Noxious emissions and choking fumes from the ILVA steel plant in the southern Italian city of Taranto have been blamed for abnormally high levels of cancer tumours and respiratory diseases in the region.
The prosecutors arrested Emilio Riva, chairman of the group that owns ILVA, and six others including his son Fabio, the justice system officials said.
The president of the factory, Bruno Ferrante, has been put under investigation over the scandal, which has seen the sprawling plant placed under special administration and threatened with closure, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
No comment was immediately available from ILVA or the privately owned Riva group.
Prosecutors suspect that a number of people paid bribes to local politicians, officials and business people to hide the scale of an environmental disaster.
The sources said that three of those detained were being held in prison, while the other four had been placed under house arrest.
Europe's largest steel plant employs some 12,000 workers directly and another 8,000 jobs depend indirectly on the site, located in an area of high unemployment in southern Italy. (Reporting by Vincenzo Damiani; Editing by Hugh Lawson)