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POLITICS

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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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Doubts rise over ‘loose cannon’ Salvini after Italy’s election

Italian anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini was disappointed on Monday at his party's result in general elections but pledged to work with Giorgia Meloni, who triumphed, to form a government.

Doubts rise over 'loose cannon' Salvini after Italy's election

Whether Salvini would keep his word – or survive politically long enough to do so – was not clear, after his anti-immigrant League party dropped below the 10 percent threshold at Sunday’s vote.

This was a sharp decrease after the party swept to office with 17 percent of the vote in 2018 – since when it has been eclipsed by Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A glum Salvini, who has clashed with Meloni on a range of policies, not least her stance on Russia and the war in Ukraine, told reporters that winning just nine percent had been a blow.

It was “not a number I wanted or worked for”, he said.

Salvini added that he had “gone to bed fairly pissed off but woke up ready to go” and was now “looking on the bright side”.

Meloni “was good. We will work together for a long time”, he promised.

Leader of Italy's liberal-conservative party Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italy's conservative party Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni and leader of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini acknowledge supporters at the end of a joint rally against the government on October 19, 2019 in Rome.

Italy’s right-wing coalition, consisting of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, has promised to slash taxes and put ‘Italians first’. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The League may now have to battle to ensure its priorities are not sidelined in Meloni’s government programme, analysts said.

And while ex-interior minister Salvini has repeatedly said he wants his former job back, it is looking increasingly unlikely to happen.

“It won’t be an easy relationship. It’s likely that (Salvini) will be given a more marginal role in the government than he wants,” Sofia Ventura, political sciences professor at Bologna University, told the foreign press association in Rome.

“The result… throws into question Matteo Salvini’s leadership” of his own party, she said, adding that there were those within the League who thought they would be better off without the “loose cannon”.

READ ALSO: Meloni, Salvini, Berlusconi: The key figures in Italy’s likely new government

He said Meloni had benefited from being the only leader to stay outside the coalition formed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021.

For the League, being part of that administration “was not easy”, he said, but insisted “I would do it again.”

‘Dangerous when cornered’

Meloni secured around 26 percent of the vote in Sunday’s poll, putting her on course to become the first woman to serve as Italian prime minister.

She campaigned as part of a coalition including Salvini’s League and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which won around eight percent.

Italian politics is notoriously unstable, with nearly 70 governments since 1946, and there were concerns disagreements with Salvini may precipitate a fresh crisis.

Lorenzo Pregliasco, co-founder of the YouTrend polling site, said Italian party leaders proved “dangerous” when they felt cornered.

The League head “might not create any problems in the short term” but “watch out for the Salvini factor, if he survives politically as a leader”.

Salvini however said that after years of unwieldy coalitions, Italy finally had “a government chosen by its citizens, with a clear majority” in both houses of parliament.

And he hoped it could “go for at least five years straight, without changes, without upheavals, focusing on things to do”.

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