ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s top appeals court has confirmed the confiscation of some 49 million euros (£45.2 million) from the right-wing ruling League party over a decade-old corruption scandal, keeping it under financial pressure.
Rome’s Court of Cassation decreed late on Tuesday that the case against former League leader Umberto Bossi and its former party treasurer had expired due to the statute of limitations, but the confiscation of the funds remained in place.
The League, now in a governing coalition with the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, has risen to become Italy’s most popular party under its present leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.
Under terms of a September 2018 ruling by a Genoa court, the League must repay the 49 million euros in instalments over the course of 75 years.
Bossi and the former treasurer, Francesco Belsito, were appealing against fraud convictions for having illegally used party funds provided by the state to pay for private expenses run up by Bossi’s family from 2008 to 2010.
The finances of the party, which at the time the scandal erupted was called the Northern League, have been constantly under the spotlight over the last year.
Magistrates are investigating whether funds may have been shifted abroad illegally to avoid detection after the original fraud verdicts against Bossi and Belsito, something which Salvini has always denied.
A separate investigation was opened this year into possible international corruption following media reports that the party sought millions of euros via a secret Russian oil deal.
Salvini denies any wrongdoing and says the League has never received funds from Moscow.
(Reporting by Domenico Lusi; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)