Verdini conviction sparks tension over backing for Renzi

PD minority says Verdini links pose 'risks'

(ANSA) - Rome, March 17 - A Rome court on Thursday found Senator Denis Verdini, a former top aide of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, guilty of corruption in contracts for the construction of a military academy in Florence and gave him a suspended two-year prison term.
    The sentencing of Verdini immediately reignited controversy over the backing his small Liberal Popular Alliance - Autonomies (ALA) group has recently given to Premier Matteo Renzi's government for key reforms.
    A dissenting minority within Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) on Thursday pointed to the risks that this "preferential axis" posed, and the opposition anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) said that "beginning today, Renzi is governing with the support of a corruption convict".
    Angelo Balducci, former head of Italy's Superior Council of Public Works, Fabio De Santis, former public works commissioner in Tuscany, businessman Francesco Maria De Vito Piscicelli and real estate developer Riccardo Fusi had already received definitive convictions in the case.
    According to the prosecution, Verdini was found to have facilitated Fusi in his affairs and orchestrated De Santis' appointment as public works commissioner. The public prosecutor pointed to wiretapped conversations as proof.
    PD Minority Senator Federico Fornaro said a more prudent approach to Verdini would have been appreciated by voters and party members. Meanwhile small left-wing party Italian Left (SI) said Renzi should clarify whether he wants to carry on with Verdini's backing.
   

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