Northern League leader lashes out over frozen bank accounts

The leader of the far-right Northern League has accused magistrates of trying to derail the party ahead of general elections after a Genoa court froze several of its bank accounts.

Northern League leader lashes out over frozen bank accounts
Northern League leader Matteo Salvini. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

The court froze the accounts after a request by prosecutors in connection to the July conviction of Umberto Bossi, the party’s founder, and two others for fraud.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said the court was trying to stop the party’s advance as it enjoys a “historic high” in popularity in the run-up to general elections, which are due before May 2018.

A recent poll suggested that the party, which mostly campaigns on an anti-immigrant platform, would win 15 percent of the vote if an election was held now.

“They are trying to get rid of us from newspapers, from TV, from radio and from parliament,” he was quoted by La Repubblica as saying.

“But they won’t succeed. In a democracy it’s the citizens who decide who wins and who loses.”

Bossi was handed a jail term of two years and three months for using thousands of euros in public money to fund an extravagant lifestyle. His son, Renzo, was also convicted in the case and given a one and a half year sentence.

Francesco Belsito, the party’s ex-treasurer, received the longest sentence of three years.

Prosecutors alleged that Bossi had used more than €200,000 in funds provided by the state to political parties to pay personal expenses between 2009 and 2011.

Belsito was found to have embezzled nearly half a million euros, while Renzo Bossi more than €140,000, including several thousands to pay traffic tickets and €77,000 to buy a diploma in Albania.

Bossi, once a key ally of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was forced out of his party in 2012 after the allegations emerged. Salvini has led the party since then.



Italy’s Salvini investigated again for false imprisonment

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday he was once more under investigation for alleged false imprisonment after refusing to let migrants disembark from a rescue ship.

Italy's Salvini investigated again for false imprisonment
The Sea Watch 3 ship at the centre of new allegations against Salvini. Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP

Attempts to launch trial proceedings against the far-right League leader for blocking migrants aboard another ship earlier this year fell through after senators voted he should not be stripped of his parliamentary protection to face charges.

“I am under investigation once again for 'false imprisonment',” Salvini said on Twitter.

“I don't know whether to laugh about it or not,” he said, insisting that his policy of closing Italy's port to people attempting the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy still stands.

The latest probe centres on 47 people rescued on January 19 off Libya by the ship Sea Watch 3, owned by a German charity and flying a Dutch flag, which was only permitted to dock on January 31 after Italy struck a deal with other European countries to take in the migrants.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian port city of Syracuse, where the ship took shelter from bad weather between January 24 and 30, have opened an investigation into alleged false imprisonment and named the minister as the suspected perpetrator.

Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando, who in January defied Salvini's “closed ports” order by offering to allow the Sea Watch ship to berth, said he hoped that Salvini would “not be tempted to try to dodge justice once more with the odious recourse to parliamentary immunity”.

The probe earlier this year related to the rescue in August of 190 people by Italy's Diciotti coast guard ship, who were left stuck at sea for 10 days without permission to dock.