Italian League to pay fraud bill, slowly

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's far-right League on Tuesday reached an agreement with prosecutors in Genoa that would allow the party to pay back millions of euros in illegally obtained funds over many decades.

The party of Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was found to have fraudulently claimed 49 million euros ($58 million) in electoral expenses in 2008-2010.

It was led at the time by Umberto Bossi and its treasurer was Francesco Belsito.

Prosecutor Francesco Pinto told the AGI news agency the League said it was "ready to hand over to the prosecutors 100,000 euros every two months, that is 600,000 euros a year."

At that rate the state would recover the money owed it a little before the end of this century.

The daily Repubblica suggested the mooted figures could be a minimum however, and could rise depending on the state of the party's finances.

Italian authorities authorised a freeze of League funds in early September after Bossi and Belsito were convicted of fraud.

They have both appealed, and magistrates have only managed to recover three million euros so far.

News of the deal reached on Tuesday drew acerbic comments from opposition parties.

"The thieving League has decided to return the money on comfortable terms. Paying it back will take about as long as it does to expel illegal immigrants -- 80 years," tweeted Elena Boschi of the centre left Democratic Party.

Salvini, who took over the party in late 2013 after a raft of scandals and turned it around, insists he never saw the 49 million euros.