Italy's Matteo Salvini investigated over use of police aircraft

An Italian prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether the interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has squandered public money by travelling around the country in police aircraft while campaigning for his far-right League party.

La Repubblica newspaper claimed Salvini had spent just 17 days behind his desk at the interior ministry since the beginning of the year, and that state transport was used to get him to rallies up and down the country in recent months as he supported League candidates in local, regional and European elections.

Andrea Lupi, a prosecutor at Lazio’s audit court, said: “We’ve seen the reports and now need to ascertain if state aircraft were used for campaigning. This type of investigation isn’t unusual. We did the same for [the former prime minister] Matteo Renzi.”

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has denied the allegations, saying he flew in state and police aircraft only for official purposes. “There has been no abuse or irregularity. I challenge anyone to prove the opposite,” he said. “I am being investigated for everything – for kidnapping, for racism. I think Italians appreciate the work I’m doing. In the history of the interior ministry, I think I’m the minister that is costing less.”

La Repubblica said Salvini had attended 211 political events so far this year. He often says he prefers being among his supporters than in the office. At a rally in Pesaro last week, Salvini spent more time posing for selfies than delivering his speech.

His frequent absence from the interior ministry has been criticised by MPs from the centre-left Democratic party. “When an interior minister chooses not to involve himself with the security of the country but to muck around with rallies and selfies, it is not worthy of the office he holds,” said one MP, Gennaro Migliore.

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