ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday he had continued trust in the ruling coalition League party despite allegations it had sought illicit funds from Russia.
“There are no elements at this stage that could reduce the trust I have in all members of the government,” Conte told the upper house Senate in a speech addressing the scandal which has shaken the League and its leader, Matteo Salvini.
Italian magistrates said earlier this month they had opened an investigation into possible international corruption following media reports that the League had sought millions of euros via a secret Russian oil deal.
Salvini, who serves as deputy prime minister and interior minister, has denied any accusations of wrongdoing and was not in the Senate as Conte spoke. The prime minister said he had not received any information about the case from his deputy.
Highlighting recent tensions within the government, almost all the senators from the League’s coalition ally, the 5-Star Movement, left parliament before Conte started speaking to protest against Salvini’s absence.
“Why aren’t we in the chamber? Because Salvini should be in there,” said Stefano Patuanelli, the 5-Star Senate leader.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Francesco Guarascio)