In Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region by the pandemic, the magistrates questioned the governor, Attilo Fontana, 68, for alleged fraud over the supply of medical gear from a company owned by his brother-in-law.
Fontana, a member of the right-wing League party, was placed under investigation after it turned out that he paid EUR 250,000 ( USD 291,000) to the medical equipment company in which his wife has a 10% stake. Lombardy’s governor declined wrongdoing.
In April, the Lombardy region had ordered 75,000 surgical gowns and 7,000 sanitizing kits from the company in a contract valued at EUR 500,000 ( USD 583,000). Subsequently, the company donated the first order of 50,000 gowns instead of selling them.
Afterward, Fontana ordered a bank transfer of EUR 250,000 ( USD 291,000) from his account in Switzerland to his brother-in-law, the owner of the medical gear company.
However, the banks notified the financial police about the transfer. Fontana said he wanted to compensate his brother-in-law for the loss of profit.
The party leader and a former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, defended his ally, highlighting that the prosecutors were politically motivated. Opposition parties called on the governor to resign.
Nearly half of Italy’s 35,000 coronavirus deaths have been registered in Lombardy, the nation’s industrial and financial center.
Families of COVID-19 victims in Lombardy have started a movement called ”Noi Denunceremo” ( ”We will report”) to demand a criminal investigation into the local government and its handling of the health crisis.
The movement now has over 60,000 members. They have submitted around 150 individual complaints to the public prosecutors, adding to the first 50 lodged in early June.
According to the victims’ relatives, the Lombardy government’s choice not to impose a lockdown in some areas was politically motivated and not based on science.
The public prosecutor said they would investigate whether there is a case of potential criminal negligence and if so, the judiciary would bring it to court.
The first COVID-19 cases in the town of Bergamo, Lombardy, were reported on February 23. Two days before, the first coronavirus outbreak had occurred in the neighboring Lodi province, 62 miles from Bergamo. As a result, 50,000 Lodi residents were quarantined, and the area was declared ”a red zone.”
The virus entered Lombardy, the towns of Nembro and Alzano Lombardo escalated, but the local government did not impose a lockdown before March 8.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was also questioned as part of the investigation. Asked about the alleged belated lockdown in Lombardy, he said he acted within the science. According to Conte, the decision was in the hands of the local authorities.
Lombardy government opposed, arguing it did hot have the powers to declare a red zone as the national government should have done it.
What do you think? Did Lombardy’s governor commit a crime?