The Italian Northern League’s headquarters has been raided and its treasurer Francesco Belsito placed under investigation for suspected illegal party financing.
Two other people involved with financial operations in Tanzania and Cyprus worth more than five million euros are also being investigated.
The news has caused shockwaves in Italy as the Northern League, which was a key ally of Silvio Berlusconi’s governments, had always prided itself on being clean.
Now judges based in Milan, Naples and Reggio Calabria are to examine the League’s own books.
Belsito, a former junior minister, is being investigated over possible embezzlement and defrauding the state. The Naples inquiry is looking at money laundering in connection with the Calabrian mafia, the N’drangheta.
Roberto Maroni, an ex-Interior Minister and one of the party’s main figures, has called on Belsito to resign, concerned over potential damage ahead of municipal elections in May.
The party leader Umberto Bossi has defended the treasurer, saying any investments abroad were carried out to offset the risk of an Italian default.