Italy's League party to forfeit €48 million, Rome's Supreme Court rules

Italy's top court has upheld a prosecutor's request to seize funds for "financial irregularities" dating back to 2008. It is related to convictions of Umberto Bossi, founder of Italy's Northern League party.

Rome's top court on Tuesday ruled there was no reason not to seize funds from Italy's right-wing League party, Italy's ANSA news agency reported. Prosecutors last year had requested more than €49 million ($57 million) from the party — originally named the Northern League — after its founder, Umberto Bossi, and a former party treasurer were convicted of financial irregularities. The charges relate to transactions which took place between 2008-2010.

Law and Justice | 10.07.2017

League lawmaker Giulio Centemero decried Tuesday's ruling, citing the party's "total transparency and honesty." According to Italy's La Repubblica, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who now heads the League party, said: "49 million isn't much, I'll make a collection. It is a politically motivated process based on facts that are ten years old and money I have never seen. I can get the money selling T-shirts, caps and french fries."

Read more: Founder of Italy's Northern League, Umberto Bossi, jailed for fraud

Rechtspopulismus Flash-Galerie

Umberto Bossi and Silvio Berlusconi during a news conference in 2008

Berlusconi's buddy

Bossi — once a key ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — was found guilty in a 2017 trial in Milan of using hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds to pay personal expenses during his time as head of the party. He was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for the offense, while his son, Renzo, was also convicted and given an 18-month prison sentence. Former Northern League treasurer Francesco Belsito received the longest sentence of the three: two years and six months behind bars.

The trial also found €200,000 ($228,000) in funds provided to political parties by the state was used to pay Bossi's family expenses, including travel, dinners, education fees, hotel accommodation and expensive cars.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini now heads the party, which he renamed the League after he took over in 2013.

Read more: Scandal forces Italian far-right party chief out

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

He's back, and this time he's a vegetarian

Last Easter, in an attempt to soften his image as he eyed a return to poltics, Berlusconi took part in an ad promoting vegetarianism that featured him snuggling lambs in soft lighting overlaid with easy listening music. Although Berlusconi is barred from seeking office for another year due to a fraud convinction, a bloc led by his Forza Italia party has been polling strongly.

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

'No one will marry you'

Berlusconi is well known for offensive remarks and belittling women, so it's no surprise he did both in one go on the campaign trail. Earlier in February, he told a BBC journalist that her handshake was too manly; "Otherwise men will think, this one is going to beat me up, and no one will marry you."

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

Win (a date with) Salvini!

Matteo Salvini of the far-right Northern League came up with a humble publicity stunt – whoever likes his Facebook posts can win a chance to take a picture with "the captain", talk to him on the phone, or meet in private. He was lambasted on social media and by Italy's La Repubblica daily, which wrote: "The captain? Even Silvio Berlusconi in his golden age would envy this kind of self-regard."

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

Think about it!

If ex-PM Matteo Renzi was hoping to make a big splash with this tepid ad in which — surprise! — he shows up on a bike and tells a family to "think about" voting for him, then he was certainly successful. Just not perhaps in the way he wanted. The staggeringly lackluster TV spot was parodied countless times on social media.

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

Just us kids

Luigi di Maio of Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) has repeatedly used his age of only 31 to try and connect with younger voters and is prolific on social media. One of his most cringe-worthy attempts to relate to millennial voters came in a video he posted to Instagram in which he said M5S would make Italy "fly high," before "flying" himself in an entertainment complex.

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

Pope: Fake news is like being aroused by feces

After the US election, the Pope warned about the spread of fake news in Italy and its undue influence. He called untrue, sensational stories "the greatest damage the media can do," in an interview with the Catholic weekly Tertio. "I think the media...must not fall into – no offense intended – the sickness of coprophilia," he said, using a more polite term for an abnormal interest in faeces.

Democracy Italian style: The weirdest moments of Italy's election campaign

Prime Minister Oliver?

Comedian and pundit John Oliver brought the tumultous Italian election to the attention of a wider audience in one of his famous TV segments, skewering Berlusconi. Oliver's solution to Italy's unwieldy democracy? Encouraging Italian lawmakers to appoint him: "Incredibly, I am far from your worst option," he joked while cuddling a lamb.

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