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Italy’s Salvini faces investigation over ‘misuse’ of police aircraft

The head of Italy's far-right League, Matteo Salvini, could be investigated for the alleged unauthorised use of service aircraft for party business while he was a cabinet minister, Italian media reported on Thursday.

Italy's Salvini faces investigation over 'misuse' of police aircraft
Italian League party leader and former government minister Matteo Salvini. Photo: AFP

The state prosecutor in Rome has sent documents to a tribunal charged with monitoring public finances concerning 35 flights Salvini took while deputy prime minister and interior minister, according to the Corriere della Sera.

The prosecutor has asked the court to determine whether the flights on police and firefighters' planes and helicopters constituted an abuse of office.

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According to a recent investigation by La Repubblica, Salvini often scheduled official state trips within Italy just before or after rallies for the League.

“I can't wait to go in front of the courts,” Salvini said when asked about the report at a news conference on Thursday.

The prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Italy's audit court had earlier opened, then shelved in September, an investigation on financial grounds, arguing that the cost of the trips did not appear to be higher than what would normally have been authorised.

Still, the court considered the flights illegal because Italian law stipulates that police and firefighting aircraft should be used exclusively for institutional use and not by state ministers.

Matteo Salvini (centre) frequently wore the uniforms of the Italian police and fire brigade while in office, and is alleged to have misused their aircraft. Photo: Matteo Salvini/Twitter

Only the five highest members of state — the president, the two parliament speakers, the prime minister and the head of the constitutional court – are legally allowed to use such aircraft.

Exceptions most be specially authorised, which was not the case for Salvini.

He is also reported to have ordered police and firefighters to remove banners protesting against his League party while he was serving as Minister of the Interior, responsible for the Italian police force and fire service.

Salvini is currently embroiled in other judicial affairs, including alleged links between the League and Russia, and a decades-long corruption scandal involving the party, for which a court has confiscated 49 million euros.

READ ALSO: Salvini denies the League sought funding from Russia

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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