An investigation has found that a construction company in Rome exchanged sexual favors for government contracts to help rebuild the earthquake-ravaged city of L'Aquila. "After shrugging off a series of sex scandals that cost him his marriage, the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has found that his poll ratings have finally taken a dive as he becomes mired in yet another controversy. Berlusconi has described regional elections at the end of March as a crucial test. But they have been overshadowed by a new scandal that involves sex, bribes and the mercenary exploitation of the earthquake that struck the town of L'Aquila in April last year, killing 307 and leaving 50,000 homeless. At the time, Berlusconi's handling of the reconstruction process was seen as proof of a can-do spirit and was widely viewed as his greatest triumph since re-election in 2008. But transcripts obtained by magistrates through wire-taps have led to allegations that one of his political allies swapped rebuilding contracts for sexual favours. And the public outcry shows no sign of abating."