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New corruption case in Lombardy, 40 councillors probed

Suspects investigated for alleged misuse of party funds

14 December, 12:13
New corruption case in Lombardy, 40 councillors probed (ANSA) - Milan, December 14 - Milan prosecutors have placed 40 Lombardy regional councillors belonging to the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and the right-wing Northern League of his former ally Umberto Bossi under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds.

The investigation follows a series of corruption probes that led Governor Roberto Formigoni to dissolved his executive in October. Formigoni is suspected of wrongdoing related to health-sector contracts in one of those cases. He denies any wrongdoing. The PdL and Northern League regional caucus chiefs, respectively Paolo Valentini and Stefano Galli, are among those being probed as part of the investigation that emerged on Friday.

The suspects could face charges of embezzlement over the alleged misappropriation of party funds, including for personal use. One Northern League councillor is reported to have spent 750 euros on ammunition for hunting.

On Friday police also searched regional government offices to obtain documents regarding the use of public funding by the main centre-left Democratic Party and two smaller parties, the IdV and SEL.

On October 10 finance police conducted searches in the offices of the Lombardy Regional Council as part of a probe into regional finances from 2008 to March 2011.

It subsequently emerged that three Lombardy councillors, the Northern League's Davide Boni, the former speaker of the regional assembly, and Franco Nicoli Cristiani and Massimo Buscemi of the PdL, were among those under investigation.

In a separate case, PdL councillor Domenico Zambetti was arrested for allegedly buying votes from the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia.

The centre-right administration in Lazio also collapsed earlier this year due to a corruption scandal, contributing to a drop in support for the PdL.

Bossi's Northern League has come under the lens for alleged corruption too, leading to a change of leadership earlier this year. Other parties on the other side of the political spectrum have been hit by scandals of their own.

Residents of Lombardy and Lazio are due to elect new regional administrations early next year.