December 10, 2019 / 2:17 PM / 2 months ago

Italy's police search regional offices, firms in League fraud probe

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s finance police searched on Tuesday offices of the Lombardy regional government and two firms with links to the League party as part of a money laundering probe, a statement by the prosecutor’s office said.

The investigation is tied to a 2018 ruling in which the far-right League, led by Matteo Salvini, was ordered to repay some 49 million euros ($54 million) it owed the state.

The courts have recovered some 4 million euros, but many League bank accounts were discovered to be empty and magistrates are investigating whether some funds may have been shifted abroad illegally to avoid detection.

A Lombardy region official and member of the League, Stefano Bruno Galli, has been placed under investigation for alleged fraud as part of the case, Tuesday’s statement said.

Galli did not answer an emailed request for comment, while the Lombardy regional government, which is run by the League, was not available for comment. The League has repeatedly denied allegations of wrong-doing tied to the case.

The companies that were searched had carried out work for the League’s electoral campaigns, the statement said.

Prosecutors began looking for the League’s cash after the party’s founder and former leader, Umberto Bossi, was convicted of illegally using party funds to pay for family expenses from 2008 to 2010.

As part of its ruling, the court said the League should pay back the 49 million euros it had received from the state over this period. Prosecutors last year said the League could reimburse this sum over the next 75 years.

Up to 2013, Italian parties were entitled to state electoral funding partly based on their number of parliamentary seats.

Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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