June 17, 2020 / 10:13 AM / 15 days ago

Milan prosecutors look into report alleging Venezuela cash for 5-Star -source

MILAN, June 17 (Reuters) - Milan prosecutors are looking into a report by Spain’s ABC newspaper alleging that Venezuela passed 3.5 million euros ($3.95 million) to its consulate in Milan in 2010 to fund Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, a judicial source said.

At this stage no specific people are being targeted by the inquiry and there are no allegations of any crime, the person added.

The Spanish newspaper alleged that Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, at the time the Latin American country’s foreign minister, sent the money in a diplomatic bag that was handed to Gianroberto Casaleggio, the late co-founder of the 5-Star Movement that became part of Italy’s ruling coalition in 2018.

5-Star was founded in 2009, and had no members of parliament in 2010, when the alleged transfer of funds took place.

5-Star’s caretaker leader Vito Crimi dismissed the report as “simply ridiculous and fanciful fake news”, adding his party was considering legal action.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted that the government would take legal action against those responsible for the report, which he called “lies and slander”.

The ABC article published on Monday created a political stir in Italy, with all major newspapers citing it the following day, given its implications for the 5-Star, the biggest parliamentary force in the coalition government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, already under pressure due to the coronavirus emergency.

Davide Casaleggio, the son of the late co-founder who runs the movement’s online operations, also described the report as fake news, adding that 5-Star had “always been financed in a transparent way and we are the only ones who have made all accounts public ... even before the law required it”. ($1 = 0.8861 euros) (Reporting by Alfredo Faieta, writing by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Gavin Jones, William Maclean)

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