Italian Tourism Minister Indicted For COVID-Era Fraud

Prosecutors on Friday charged Italy’s tourism minister with fraud relating to government redundancy funds claimed by her publishing companies during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opposition lawmakers immediately requested the resignation of Daniela Santanche, a leading member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party.

Santanche, 63, has strongly rejected the allegations, including in a defiant appearance in parliament last year.

“The Milan prosecutor’s office today requested the indictment of Minister Santanche and other persons as well as the companies Visibilia Editore and Visibilia Concessionaria,” the office said in a brief statement.

They were indicted “for alleged fraud of the INPS (National Institute for Social Security) in relation to alleged irregularities in the use of the Covid-19 redundancy fund, for a total of 13 employees”.

According to media reports, Visibilia is accused of obtaining state funds intended to help companies struggling with the pandemic to temporarily lay off staff — when in fact the 13 employees continued to work.

Santanche sold her stake in Visibilia when she joined the government of Meloni, who took office in October 2022.

The investigation has been going on for months, but with the decision by prosecutors to indict, opposition parties said Santanche should resign.

“We expect the prime minister to have a minimum of respect for the institutions and ask for Daniela Santanche’s resignation,” said Elly Schlein, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party.


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