FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) – An Italian court on Monday found the parents of former prime minister Matteo Renzi guilty of issuing false invoices, and handed them suspended prison terms of one year and nine months.
The verdict is a blow to Renzi, who has just quit his old group, the Democratic Party (PD), to form a new centrist force, Italia Viva (Italy Alive), and has always stoutly defended his parents from accusations of financial wrongdoing.
Tiziano Renzi and Laura Bovoli, who are both in their 70s, were found guilty of having issued fake invoices for a total of 160,000 euros ($176,000) in 2015 through two small companies.
They both denied the charges and their lawyer Federico Bagattini said they would appeal the verdict.
“We are not happy,” he told Reuters, adding however that the judge had imposed the lightest sentence possible for such a crime. “This is a great starting point for an appeal.”
A third defendant, businessman Luigi Dagostino, received a two-year term for having accepted the bogus invoices. He too said he planned to appeal the ruling.
Renzi’s parents were briefly placed under house arrest last February in relation to a separate probe into accusations of fraudulent bankruptcy and of issuing false invoices in the name of a third company.
That case is still under investigation.
Renzi led a centre-left government from 2014 to 2016 and last month announced he was setting up Italia Viva, saying the PD had shifted too far to the left and no longer supported his political vision.
He has had to repeatedly defend his parents in recent years from accusations of wrongdoing and has suggested they are being victimised by their detractors because of his own political activity.
“If I hadn’t entered politics, my family would not have been buried under this mud,” he said in February.
(Reporting by Silvia Ognibene, writing by Angelo Amante, editing by Crispian Balmer and Ed Osmond)