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Italy’s Matteo Renzi charged with illegal party financing

by editor

ROME — Prosecutors in Italy have formally charged former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi with illegal financing of a political party.

Florence prosecutors say that Renzi should stand trial after an investigation into alleged irregularities in the funding of Open, a foundation that helped finance Renzi’s rise from mayor of Florence to the country’s premier and leader of the leftist Democratic Party (he is now leader of the centrist Italia Viva party).

Ten others, including parliamentarians, business executives and a former president of the foundation, are also accused as part of the investigation. Among the alleged crimes are illegal party financing, corruption, money laundering and trafficking of influence.

Four companies are also involved in the investigation, including British American Tobacco Italia. According to prosecutors, Open acted as if it was part of the Democratic Party and received €3.5 million in funding, which was spent on supporting the political activities of Renzi and his allies.

A preliminary hearing will be held on April 4, when an investigating judge will decide whether the trial should go ahead.

Renzi has always said that Open is a foundation rather than a party, so there can be no illegal party financing. In a statement, he said a trial was “a foregone conclusion and widely awaited.”

“Finally the trial will begin in court rather than by media,” he said. “Now Italians will be able to see how weak the accusations are and how scandalous are the methods used by the Florence prosecutors.”

Renzi said he had filed a criminal complaint against three of the prosecutors, noting that one had previously and unsuccessfully tried to prosecute his family, adding: “I have not committed any crimes, I hope that the Florentine prosecutors can say the same.”

Representatives for British American Tobacco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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