Minister resigns over Italy’s ‘crazy expenses’ scandal

The Italian government avoided a crisis on Thursday after a junior League minister resigned following his conviction for fraud and embezzlement in what was known as the "crazy expenses" trial.

Minister resigns over Italy's 'crazy expenses' scandal
Regional councillors from Liguria were convicted of fiddling their expense claims. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The case threatened to put the anti-migrant League and its leader Matteo Salvini on a collision course with coalition partner the Five Star Movement (M5S), which has taken a tough stance against corruption.

The court in Genoa on Thursday sentenced infrastructure and transport undersecretary Edoardo Rixi to three years and five months in prison, one month more than the prosecutor had demanded.

“I have already handed my resignation to Salvini,” Italian media quoted Rixi as saying.

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini said that he had accepted the resignation “solely to protect him [Rixi] and the activity of the government from senseless attacks and scandals”.

The court also ordered €50,000 to be seized from Rixi, who will appeal.

The court heard that Rixi and 19 others accused at the Liguria regional council had submitted private expenses including for amusement park visits, lottery scratch cards, oysters, chocolates, flowers and other items between 2010 and 2012.


The councillors, who came from several different political parties, were also found to have claimed multiple times for the same receipt. In one instance, League councillors submitted 15 receipts from the same cafe on the same day.

The case echoes that of fellow League infrastructure and transport undersecretary and Salvini confidante Armando Siri, who was sacked earlier this month amid graft allegations.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte sacked Siri despite Salvini's protests that he had not accepted a €30,000 bribe — or the promise of it — from a businessman for promoting the interests of renewable energy companies. Prosecutors also suspected businessman Siri of being in league with a Sicilian who has links to a Mafia boss. 

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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.