A corruption scandal shakes Italy one month before the European elections

A corruption scandal shakes Italy one month before the European elections
A corruption scandal shakes Italy one month before the European elections

The president of the Liguria region, Giovanni Toti, delivers a speech in the port city of Genoa (Miguel MEDINA/AFP)

A scandal of alleged corruption shook the political board of Italy one month before the European elections. Giovanni Totipresident of the Liguria region and ally of the government of Giorgia Meloniand the former director of the port of Genoa, Paolo Emilio Signoriniwere arrested as part of an investigation into allegations of corruption that also point to authorities who allegedly have links with the mafia.

The investigation by the Genoese prosecutor’s office and the Italian financial police points to what appears to be a well-oiled system in the northwest tourist region that provided favors to companies and businessmen in exchange for money and luxurious gifts. almost a new mani polish on the shores of the Mediterranean.

The prosecution is investigating ten people for this caseincluding Totipresident of Liguria since 2015 and about to conclude his second term, and Signoriniwho was president until August 2023 of the Genoa Port Authoritythe most important port of Italy.

In the large operation carried out this morning by the agents of the Italian financial police, they seized 570,000 euros both in money as well as assets of three of the businessmen involved in the plot.

Toti55 years old, is under house arrest accused of having accepted 74,100 euros ($79,700) for the well-known businessman’s campaign Aldo Spinelli and his son Robertin exchange for favors.

These included, supposedly, accelerating the 30-year renewal of the lease of a port terminal in Genoa to a company controlled by the Spinelli family, approved in December 2021. Five days after the renewal, transfers for a total of 40,000 euros came out of four Spinelli companies for Toti’s electoral committee.

Containers and cranes near the emblematic Lanterna lighthouse, in the port of Genoa (Marco Bertorello / AFP)

On the table there was also concessions on local highwaysin addition to advertising favors and privatizations of public spaces.

According to investigators, Toti “facilitated” the process to build a luxury housing complex in Punta del Olmoa natural enclave by the sea about 40 kilometers from Genoa, as well as “finding a solution” to privatize the beach which is located next to it. Operation, says the Prosecutor’s Office, successful. In fact, a couple of years ago, work began in the area for the real estate operationvalued at one hundred million euros.

For its part, Signoriniwho currently runs the energy services company Gois accused of having favored Spinelli in exchange for benefits that included cash, 22 stays in a luxury hotel in Monte Carlo -with casino chips, massages and beauty treatments- and Luxury articlesincluding a bracelet Cartier of 7,200 euros, and a Chanel bag.

The former port boss, who was jailed after his arrest, was also promised a job of 300,000 euros per year when his term ended, according to prosecutors.

The former president of the port authority of Genoa Emilio Signorini. (Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

In exchange, Signorini would have granted favors to Aldo Spinelliincluding working to accelerate the renewal of the family’s port concession.

The Spinelli They are also accused of corruption: Aldoformer president of the Genoa and Livorno football clubs, is under house arrest and his son Robert is temporarily prohibited from conducting business.

In another aspect of the research, Matteo Cozzani, Toti’s chief of staff and his 2020 campaign director, is under house arrest over accusations of “electoral corruption” and allegedly favored the activity of “Cosa Nostra”, the Sicilian mafia.

As regional coordinator during the 2020 local elections, he is accused of promise jobs and public housing in exchange for the votes of at least 400 members of the Sicilian community of Genoa.

Giovanni Toti, Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini during an electoral rally in Ravenna in 2020 (REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo)

Toti He is a right-wing politician who belonged to the party Forza Italia (FI) and is now independent. Journalist for years in the media empire of Silvio Berlusconiwas very close to the late prime minister, of whom came to be considered their dolphin. After serving as an MEP, in 2015 he was elected president of the Liguria region in the northwest, a position for which he was re-elected in 2020.

After leaving Forza Italia, founded a centrist party – “We with Italy” – that participated in the general elections of September 2022 in the victorious right-wing coalition, formed by the far-right Brothers of Italy of Giorgia Melonithe League of Matteo Salvini and FI by Antonio Tajani.

Along with other small center formations, Toti’s party is an important ally of Prime Minister Meloni although it is not represented in the Council of Ministers.

Therefore, after hearing the news right-wing leaders called for caution and respect for Toti’s presumption of innocence.

“For me, a judge’s initiative to sentence someone is not enough. “I just hope that everything is clarified as soon as possible,” said the current deputy prime minister. Matteo Salvini.

Likewise, the also vice president and current leader of Forza Italia, Antonio TajaniBerlusconi’s successor, expressed his “conviction” that Toti “will do everything to prove his innocence.”

At the closing of this note, Meloni has not yet commented on the case, which could harm the right-wing coalition —who currently leads the polls by a wide margin— ahead of the European elections on June 8 and 9.

The opposition instead called for the resignation of the entire regional government.

“Toti should resign and there should be new elections immediately. “What emerges from the investigations of the commission of inquiry certifies a repugnant way of doing politics, whose only objective is the management and distribution of power,” said the Democratic partythe main opposition formation.

“Today in Italy there is a problem of moral issue, there is a fee, from north to south, paid for a vote in an electoral campaign, from ten or twenty euros to fifty euros per vote. “We have to regenerate politics from within,” he said for his part. Giuseppe Conteleader of the also opposition Five Star Movement.

Toti reported to the Genoa offices of the financial crimes police for questioning. His lawyer, Stefano Savitold reporters that “Currently he is calm and convinced that he can explain everything”. He said Toti was not considering resigning, insisting that the facts raised by prosecutors were “within the scope of legitimate administrative activity.”

For the moment he will be replaced in office by his vice Alessandro Piana.

The crime of bribery in the case of a public official is punishable in Italy with prison sentence of three to eight years. For the moment, however, Toti is only being investigated: if the Prosecutor requests an indictment, it will be the judge who must decide if there are sufficient elements to go to trial. Only then will possible acquittals or convictions begin to be evaluated, in a process that can take years.

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