Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Infrastructure Minister, announced he and his partner Francesca Verdini are filing lawsuits against journalists over stories of alleged corruption in the Italian media.
Italian journalists have accused Salvini of being “inappropriately implicated” in a case of allegedly rigged contracts for motorway company ANAS via Denis and Tommaso Verdini, the father and brother of his partner.
On January 4, Salvini said he and Francesca Verdini will take legal action over the accusations.
“I have the honour and the burden of taking on delicate responsibilities, always in total autonomy, in the exclusive interest of Italy to promote the unblocking, acceleration and planning of public works that have been at a standstill for years, which will change the lives of Italians for the better,” Salvini said.
“To be inappropriately involved by some ‘journalist’ in events of which I know nothing about is no longer tolerable.
“The lawsuits are starting today,” he continued, “on my part and on the part of my partner Francesca Verdini, who like me has been involved for no reason in several articles, with the commitment to donate to charity all compensation that the slanderers will be ordered to pay.”
Ho l’onore e l’onere di prendermi responsabilità delicate, sempre in totale autonomia, nell’esclusivo interesse dell’Italia per promuovere lo sblocco, l’accelerazione e la progettazione di opere pubbliche ferme da anni, che cambieranno in meglio la vita degli Italiani.
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) January 4, 2024
Denis Verdini, a former senator and ally of late former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, is the father of Francesca. He, together with her brother Tommaso, has been placed under investigation by prosecutors in Rome.
They are suspected of alleged bid-rigging via “exploiting political knowledge” and corruption, in a €180 million contract with the state-owned ANAS. Tommaso, together with four others, is under house arrest.
The inquiry began in May last year and in July, the Guardia di Finanza, or Italian finance police, conducted searches of Tommaso’s home and the offices of the Verdinis’ firm, Inver.
The searches extended to the company’s former CEO and five other executives, who were being investigated for alleged illegal influence peddling and corruption.
Inver acts as a consultant for companies participating in tenders for public works. It is accused of illegally using access to confidential information.
According to news reports in Italian media, Fabio Pileri, a partner with Inver, said Salvini gave him and others “carte blanche” to do as they wished.
La Repubblica reported that, according to investigative reports, Tomasso “boasted” about his sister’s relationship with the minister responsible, implying it could prove useful if needed.
The stories have prompted the Italian opposition to demand that Salvini must face Parliament to report on the situation.
During the traditional end-of year press conference, Italian Prime minister Georgia Meloni spoke about the matter, pointing to what she said were instances quotes falsely attributed to her in newspaper reports about the case.
“I don’t have the elements to comment on the fact itself, we have to wait for the developments of the judiciary,” she said.
“From what I have read, the wire-taps refer to the previous government, Salvini is not called into question and therefore I do not believe that Salvini should report to the courtroom on this matter.
“With this Government, businessmen and lobbyists are not having a good time, I do not exclude that the attacks against me are the fruit of this dynamic,” Meloni added.