Italian Journalist Explains Claims Russia Is Funding Matteo Salvini's EU Election Campaign

26 February 2019, 12:37 | Updated: 26 February 2019, 12:39

An investigative reporter tells James O'Brien how he concluded that Italy's Interior Minister took financial aid from the Russian government to fund his European Parliament election campaign.

Stefano Vergine said that a deal which involved the Italian-state oil company Eni and the Russian-state company Rosneft would see profits go to Italian Matteo Salvini's League Party ahead of the European Parliament elections.

Italian magazine L'Espresso published claims that during a visit to Moscow, Mr Salvini's spokesperson discussed a deal with Russian officials to sell 3 million tonnes of Russian diesel to Italy.

Speaking to James O'Brien, the investigative journalist said that an Italian lawyer said during the meeting that "the plan done by our political guys is simple given the 4% discount, it's 250,000 per month for one year, this way they will sustain a campaign".

But Mr Vergine acknowledged that he couldn't confirm whether the deal had been completed despite "knowing for sure there was a negotiation" as recent as October last year.

James O'Brien and Stefano Vergine
James O'Brien and Stefano Vergine. Picture: LBC

Mr Vergine said that everything in his book 'The Black Book of the Lega' "is proven", adding: "we had pieces of evidence for everything we wrote" and "we just wrote about a negotiation going on".

"As for the reasons why Russia would be willing to finance League, it's a very anti-European Union party," he said.

"Salvini declared he's a fan of Putin many times, and from a geo-political point of view it would be advantageous for Russia to have the European Union divided into several states.

"The plan, from what we listened to, involves the oil company Eni, which is controlled by the Italian state and Rosneft which is controlled by the Russian state.

"The five people were saying Eni would purchase from Rosneft at least 3 million tonnes of diesel, Rosneft will sell with a minimum discount of 4% on the market price, however this discount will benefit League in the end."