Italian Undersecretary for Transport Armando Siri is under investigation for allegedly accepting a bribe, according to reports in the Italian media.
Prosecutors in Rome say that, Siri, who is also a senator for the far-right La Lega party, was in discussions to accept more than 30,000 euros in bribes from a businessman to amend government policies to benefit the family’s business interests.
According to prosecutor’s office, investigators have wiretapped conversations in which a businessman named Paolo Arata is reportedly heard to say that he spent 30,000 euros to get Siri to backdate a law granting loans to companies operating in the renewable energy sector.
The rule change would have benefited companies close to Vito Nicastri, a former electrician and businessman believed to have close ties with the Cosa Nostra.
Arata is a former member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, who is now close to Lega and helped to draft the party’s government program. Although the change was not finally approved, prosecutors say that Siri tried at least three times to have it included in the law, thus showing that he was “enslaved to private interests”.
Siri has denied the allegations. “I don’t know what it’s about,” he said. “I must first read and understand. I have read names I don’t know.”
The case has caused a split between the two governing parties, with La Lega standing by Siri and rejecting calls from their Five Star Movement coalition partners for him to step down.
“We have full confidence in Armando Siri. We hope that the investigation will be quick and leaves no shadow”, La Lega said in a statement.
However, Deputy Prime Minister and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio said that “If the facts were to be confirmed, it is clear that undersecretary Siri should resign from the government.”
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of La Lega responded that he had never asked for Five Star politicians, including Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi and other lawmakers, to resign when they were placed under investigation.
On the same day the bribe accusations emerged, new allegations of wrongdoing also surfaced against Raggi, with L’Espresso news magazine releasing what it said were recordings of her urging the head of the city rubbish-collection firm to alter its accounts.