Italy PM 'unaware' of links to fund in Vatican corruption probe
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte did not know a deal he advised on before coming to office was linked to a Vatican-backed investment fund that is under investigation for possible corruption, his office said Monday.
Rome: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte did not know a deal he advised on before coming to office was linked to a Vatican-backed investment fund that is under investigation for possible corruption, his office said Monday.
Lawyer Conte was hired in May 2018 to provide a legal opinion in favour of Fiber 4.0, a shareholder group involved in a fight for control of telecoms company Retelit, according to the Financial Times. The lead investor in Fiber 4.0 was Athena Global Opportunities, funded entirely by $200 million from the Vatican Secretariat, the daily said Monday. An Athena property deal in London is reported to be at the heart of an internal probe at the Vatican which has resulted in the suspension of five employees and the resignation of the pope's chief of security.
"Conte only gave a legal opinion and was not aware of, and not required to know that, some investors were linked to an investment fund supported by the Vatican and now at the centre of an investigation," the PM's office said. The prime minister has faced accusations of a conflict of interest over the Retelit deal, after issuing a decree based on Italy's "golden powers" laws that favoured Fiber 4.0 shortly after coming to power.
"There is no conflict of interest," the prime minister's office said. Conte, who was a virtual unknown when he was selected to form his first government in June 2018, had been charged with drawing up a legal opinion on the government's possible use of golden powers. "Of course, at that time no-one could have imagined that, a few weeks later, a government chaired by the same Conte would be called to rule on that precise issue," it said in a statement.
"To avoid any possible conflict of interest, Prime Minister Conte formally abstained from any decision on the exercise of golden power," it added. The "golden powers" allow the government to block foreign control of companies deemed to be of strategic national importance.