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Italy's top court orders €49 million to be seized from League party funds

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Italy's top court orders €49 million to be seized from League party funds
The League's current leader Matteo Salvini (L) and founder Umberto Bossi. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
11:42 CEST+02:00
Italian authorities should seize League funds "wherever they may be" until it has recouped some €49 million of public money received by the party's former leader and convicted fraudster, Italy's supreme court has ruled.

In a ruling on Tuesday, the Court of Cassation recommended a "blanket" seizure of funds from the hard-right party's bank accounts, deposits and other assets in connection with the fraud case against its founder Umberto Bossi, his son Renzo and ex-treasurer Francesco Belsito.

The three were convicted in July 2017 of embezzling hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds between 2008-10, and the party ordered to repay nearly €49 million in state financing that it had received during that period. 

Since then €1.5 million of the League's assets have been frozen, but the party succeeded in blocking an order by a lower court to confiscate the rest of the sum. That appeal was overturned by Italy's highest court, however, after investigators found scant money in the League's accounts and began to suspect that some of it may been shifted abroad to escape seizure.

READ ALSO: League leader lashes out over frozen bank accounts

The League, the junior partner in Italy's new coalition government, has long accused the courts of ruling against for political reasons. Matteo Salvini, the leader who replaced Bossi after the scandal broke in 2012 and now Italy's interior minister, called the supreme court's ruling a "political trial" and said his party didn't have €49 million to seize.

Umberto Bossi was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for using more than €200,000 in financing provided by the state to political parties to fund an extravagant lifestyle. Renzo Bossi was convicted of embezzling more than €140,000, including several thousands to pay traffic tickets and €77,000 to buy a diploma in Albania, and given a one and a half year sentence.

Belsito received the longest sentence of three years after being found guilty of defrauding the state of nearly half a million euros.

All three deny the charges and are in the process of appealing. If their convictions are overturned the funding would be returned to the League, but prosecutors argue that it is necessary to freeze the party's assets now as a precautionary measure.

Bossi, meanwhile, continues to represent the League in the Italian Senate.

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