Former Italian lawmakers arrested after losing immunity

ROME (Reuters) - The start of Italy's new legislature on Friday marked the end of immunity for at least three former members of parliament who were promptly arrested on charges including mafia collusion and corruption.

Nicola Cosentino, a former undersecretary at the Economy Ministry, turned himself in at a jail near Naples on Friday before police could arrest him on charges that he had colluded with the local mafia, the Camorra, judicial sources said. He was taken into custody.

Former Senator Sergio De Gregorio, facing a probe for corruption, turned himself in at a Rome court and was ordered to be put under house arrest. Another former senator, Alberto Tedesco, was also placed under house arrest on corruption charges.

All three deny any wrongdoing.

Public anger against corruption helped a new party, the 5-Star Movement, led by comic Beppe Grillo, to become Italy's biggest political force in last month's election, after campaigning to get rid of the old political establishment.

Two of the three arrested on Friday were allies of four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who himself faces three criminal trials but still enjoys parliamentary immunity from arrest because he was re-elected.

Berlusconi caused an uproar within his People of Freedom (PDL) party before the election when he excluded Cosentino from his party's list of candidates in an attempt to dull Grillo's accusations his party was tainted by corruption.

Berlusconi is himself is under investigation on suspicion of having bribed De Gregorio to switch sides in parliament in 2006, destabilising then-Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, but De Gregorio's arrest on Friday was for another case.

Tedesco was a member of the centre-left Democratic Party.

(Reporting by Alberto Sisto; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)