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Italian court says League party funds can be seized

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GENOA (Reuters) – An Italian court ruled on Thursday that prosecutors could seize funds belonging to Italy’s ruling League party, judicial sources said, in a case that could jeopardise the group’s future.

Prosecutors in Genoa can begin immediately to sequester up to 48.9 million euros ($56.8 million) in funds from accounts and businesses belonging to the party, one source said. The party can appeal against each single asset seizure.

The prosecution began looking for the money last year after the League’s founder and former leader, Umberto Bossi, was convicted for illegally using party funds to pay for family expenses from 2008 to 2010.

After that ruling, which is now under appeal, magistrates tracked down only about 3 million euros in the party’s accounts and judicial sources have said the other funds may have been shifted abroad to avoid seizure.

Giancarlo Giorgetti, a high-ranking member of the League, last week said the possible sequester of party funds in the future was a threat to the party’s existence.

But League leader Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, played down the ruling on Thursday.

“I’m not the least bit upset because the trial regards things that happened eight, nine years ago,” Salvini told reporters.

“If they want to take everything away from us, we’ll still calmly remain in politics because Italians are with us,” he added.

($1 = 0.8604 euros)

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi in Milan, Paola Balsomini in Genoa, and Angelo Amante in Rome; writing by Francesca Landini and Steve Scherer; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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