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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Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents’ rights

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday in protest against a new government directive stopping local authorities from registering the births of same-sex couples' children.

Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents' rights

“You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,” read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled the northern city’s central Scala Square.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.

Milan’s city hall had been recognising children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed earlier this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has assured residents that he will fight to have the new government directive overturned. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as “unjust and discriminatory”.

A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.

Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest on Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party came top in the September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!” she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.