Rome: The firebrand founder of a populist,
Italian anti-immigrant party, whose crucial support kept
Silvio Berlusconi in power in three governments, resigned
on Friday amid a widening corruption scandal over party funds.
Umberto Bossi tendered his resignation as Northern League
secretary, the top post, at a summit of party officials in
Milan and repeatedly rebuffed pleas by his colleagues to
change his mind, said a League statement.
In a show of support for Bossi, 70, who made a stunning
comeback after a 2004 stroke left him barely able to speak,
party officials made him League president and also asked him
"to carry on with his political activity with even greater
determination and conviction," the party said.
Until a new secretary is chosen, the League will be led by
a triumvirate of officials, including Roberto Maroni, the
party`s No. 2, who served as interior minister under
League official Matteo Salvini, speaking on Radio Padania,
the League`s broadcaster, quoted Bossi as saying that
wrongdoers in a scandal involving alleged skimming of party
funds should "pay" for their errors.
Bossi himself has denied wrongdoing, but corruption
prosecutors have been probing the activities of his family,
including his son, Renzo, a rising star in the party.
Today`s League meeting also saw the naming of an official
to replace the party`s treasurer, Francesco Belsito, who
resigned earlier in the scandal. In a bid to remove corruption
suspicions overshadowing the party, League officials have
decided to immediately submit the party`s ledgers and assets
to review by independent accountants.