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POLITICS

Rome’s Five Star Movement mayor called in for questioning as part of corruption probe

Embattled Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said on Tuesday she has been summoned for questioning by prosecutors probing suspected corruption by one of her close advisors.

Rome's Five Star Movement mayor called in for questioning as part of corruption probe
Five Star Movement mayor Virginia Raggi. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“Today I received a summons to appear from the Rome prosecutor's office,” she said on her Facebook page, adding that she was “very calm,” and had  “total confidence in the justice system”.

According to the Agi news agency, Raggi is to be questioned next week about allegations of abuse of power and fraud as part of the probe into Raffaele Marra, Rome City Hall's personnel head.

Last month Raggi's populist Five Star Movement (M5S) party, led by comedian Beppe Grillo, stripped Raggi of the power to make “important decisions” after Marra's arrest.

Marra, seen as part of Raggi's inner circle, is suspected of accepting an illegal payment from a real estate developer in 2013 while he was head of housing policy under former Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno.

Raggi defended Marra when she was elected last year, calling him indispensable. But in December she admitted having “made a mistake” in trusting him.

But she also approved the hiring of his brother, Renato Marra, as head of tourism for the city. It is about this appointment that she will be questioned by prosecutors, Raggi said.

M5S prides itself on being scrupulously ethical and having no links to what it sees as the sleazy ways of Italian politics.

READ ALSO: What is Italy's Five Star Movement?

What is Italy's Five Star Movement?

The Movement's leader, Beppe Grillo. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Last month its leader Grillo said the party must “change gears,” adding “we must fix the errors and leave no room for doubt”.

“Mistakes were made, and Virginia Raggi has admitted them. She trusted the least trustworthy people in the world,” he added on his blog on December 17th.

Grillo had warned Raggi the day before that “important decisions, like nominations” should now be endorsed by party leadership.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

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.

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