Italy’s M5S Accused of Taking Millions From Venezuela’s Maduro

President Nicolas Maduro speaks over military equipment during a televised address from Miraflores in Caracas, Venezuela, last month. (Miraflores press office via AP)

ROME (AFP) — Italy’s ruling Five Star Movement is denying allegations published by a Spanish newspaper that it received millions of euros in secret financing from Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro in 2010.

Spanish conservative newspaper ABC on Monday published what it said was a Venezuelan intelligence document dated July 25, 2010, showing that Maduro, at the time then-President Hugo Chavez’s foreign minister, sent 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) to Italy in a diplomatic bag.

The money allegedly was destined for Gianroberto Casaleggio, who founded the anti-establishment M5S along with comedian Beppe Grillo, and died in 2016.

The allegations were plastered on the front pages of Italian newspapers on Tuesday.

The M5S, now in a coalition government with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), and the main backer of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, dismissed the Spanish paper’s story as “fake news.”

Venezuela’s embassy in Rome also rejected the accusation as “false and counterfeit” and said it might take legal action, Italy’s AGI news agency reported.

The alleged cash was reportedly to finance M5S, which was founded in 2009 and has what would be considered both left- and right-wing policies.

The Venezuelan intelligence document published by ABC said the money was sent “in a secure and secret way via the diplomatic bag.”

The head of Venezuelan intelligence at the time was Hugo Carvajal, who was arrested in Madrid in 2019 for alleged drug trafficking before being freed on bail.

Spain in November authorized his extradition to the United States but he has disappeared.

M5S won 32% of votes in the 2018 election before entering a coalition government with the far-right League. 

That coalition collapsed and a new government was formed with the PD last year, but opinion polls say that just 15% of Italians would vote for the M5S today.

© Agence France-Presse

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