It was like a scene from a political thriller: when security officers left his house, Luco Sostegni approached and arrested the former accountant for the Lega party. The officers found 25,000 euros in his suitcase, plus bus and plane tickets. Sostegni apparently wanted to move to Brazil. Other letters, which were also in his luggage, indicate that the ex-partner of the cultural organization Lombardia Film Commission (LFC) expected further payments: From September 20, he should receive tranches of 7,000 euros every three weeks.
Examining magistrate Giulio Fanales of the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office said the sums were apparently hush money. Since June 9, the authorities have been investigating Lega financial accountants Michele Scillieri, Alberto Di Rubba and Andrea Manzoni for embezzling public funds. The investigation is still concerned with the “disappeared” 49 million euros that the former separatist party, today led by ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, received as a campaign refund for the years 2008 to 2010. Wrongly, as it turned out over the years, why the Lega was sentenced by the district court in Genoa to repay the sums.
Judge Fanales hopes that the arrests of the arrested Sostegni will shed light on the financial darkness. In the specific case, it is about money laundering disguised as real estate trading. It all started when LFC President Alberto Di Rubba proposed buying a new company headquarters in 2018. The Lombardy region – the main partner of LFC – provided 400,000 euros. Financial advisor Di Rubbas was Michele Scillieri. Its bankrupt company Paloschi offered a property in the bacon belt of Milan for the same amount. In early 2019, the same property was first sold to Andromeda, which is also controlled by Scillieri. After a short reconstruction of the building, it was sold to the LFC for 800,000 euros. The result: 100 percent profit in eleven months. The purchase amount was also raised by the Lombardy region, where the Lega rules. Arrested Luca Sostegni probably served as the straw man for this trade.
The whole thing could be taken off as criminal machinations of unscrupulous financial experts if the three suspects were not part of the narrow circle of the Lega party leadership. The “new” Salvinis party had established itself in Michele Scillieri’s office in December of last year: the former Lega Nord became the “Lega per Salvini Premier”, and the old party – together with the repayment claims of EUR 49 million – became the “Bad Bank” ” explained. Salvini believed that it was free from all demands. He repeatedly denied knowing anything about the campaign reimbursement and the request for repayments. In the case now to be determined, the ex-interior minister denies knowing the suspects – an absurd assertion given the history.
By order of the Milan court, Sostegni remains in custody. What he – and his financial colleagues – could still say should worry Matteo. The Lega is currently in a downturn in the poll. Shortly before the regional elections in the south, Salvini is unlikely to be prepared to be overwhelmed by a financial scandal.