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Northern League offices searched in milk quota probe

Dairy co-op suspected of bribery, corruption

16 January, 13:30
Northern League offices searched in milk quota probe (ANSA) - Milan, January 16 - Italian finance police have raided the Milan and Turin offices of the regionalist Northern League for members who are suspected of taking bribes from dairy farmers. Late Tuesday, police confiscated evidence in connection to an investigation into a dairy co-op called La Lombarda that went bankrupt with 80 million euros in debt. Police suspect managers of the co-op were paying bribes to public officials and politicians who would intervene on their behalf to delay fines for exceeding European Union milk-production quotas.

In particular, prosecutors questioned the League's Milan-based administrative secretary Daniela Cantamessa and its Turin secretary Loredana Zola, whose homes were also searched. Northern League founder Umberto Bossi and current leader Roberto Maroni were present at the time of the search in Milan, as were other party bigwigs. Bossi's son Renzo was also reportedly questioned Tuesday. Bossi and the League, which has faced a slew of corruption charges in the last year, were instrumental in putting off milk-quota fines when the party was a key political ally to Silvio Berlusconi during his last term in office, which ended in November 2011. "The League has nothing to do with the investigation," said Maroni. "It regards a company that has nothing to do with the League. They haven't found anything...We're a third party and therefore the issue is closed".

(photo: Northern League founder Umberto Bossi)