Italian minister faces allegations of tax evasion

Josefa Idem, Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities and Sport, refused to comment on Wednesday in relation to allegations of evading property tax. The far-right Northern League party has demanded the minister’s resignation.

Italian minister faces allegations of tax evasion
Josefa Idem, Italy's Minister for Equal Opportunities and Sport. File photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

German-born minister and former Olympic medallist Josefa Idem, who joined Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s cabinet in April, has been accused of evading property tax for four years. 

The allegations concern the minister’s two properties in Ravenna in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, where she lives with her husband and two children and has previously served as a city councillor.

According to reports in La Stampa newspaper, Idem claimed one of her properties, a commercial gym, was her principal residence until February 4th 2013, while her husband claimed to be the sole owner of their shared family home.

The discrepancy was raised after local authorities in Ravenna carried out an inspection on June 11th, the paper said.

“On the ground floor, the rooms indicated as ‘equipment room’, ‘living room’, ‘study’ and ‘bathroom’ with an adjoining changing room were all at the service of the gym called ‘Ja Jo Gym',” La Stampa quoted them as saying.

The paper adds that images from Google Street View suggest that the gym has been active from at least 2008.

Yesterday, the far-right anti-immigration Northern League party called for the minister’s resignation after presenting a motion of no confidence.

Nicola Morra, the new head of the Five Star Movement (M5S) in the Italian Senate raised a point of order requesting an explanation from the minister, but the minister refused to comment, referring to her lawyer Luca Di Raimondo.

“I’ve given all the paperwork to my lawyers, who will explain everything. Any other statement could be wrongly interpreted,” La Stampa newspaper quoted Idem as saying.

Idem, 48, who is an open supporter of gay rights, also hit national headlines last week when she and her colleague Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies, became the first Italian ministers to march for Gay Pride at the national parade in Palermo, Sicily, on Saturday.

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.