A mafia corruption investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the former mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, stretched all the way across the Atlantic to Argentina, following reports in the Italian media that the right-wing politician visited Patagonia three years ago, accompanied by his son, with “suitcases full” of undeclared money.
According to an audio recording now in the hands of the police investigating the case, Alemanno reportedly transported “suitcases full of cash” to Argentina, “avoiding checks at the airport.”
Those speaking say he visited Argentina and passed through customs without declaring the cash, implying Alemanno was engaged in money-laundering or illegal activity.
The audio recording was made on 31 January, earlier this year, when the former vice-chief of Rome’s Cabinet, Luca Odevaine, spoke with two presumed accomplices of Alemanno about a fight the then-mayor had with men about money.
In the conversation, Odevaine says Alemanno made four trips with “suitcases full of cash” to Argentina. A person then asks: “And nobody stopped him?”
“He passed through a reserved door,” comes the response. Those speaking then talk about a strange robbery at the home of Alemanno, which involved people that “were looking for paper.”
Alemanno, a right-wing politician who served as mayor of the Italian capital between 2008 and June last year, is currently under formal investigation for mafia association and corruption.
Last week, police searched several properties in Rome, including Alemanno’s home, seized assests worth around 250 million dollars from individuals and arrested 37 people as part of an investigation into suspected bribery, extortion and corrupt public works contracts. Another 40 individuals are thought to be still under scrutiny, with the number of those charged expected to soar over the next 12 months.
The authorities said the investigation has revealed “an extensive and pervasive mafia structure” linking politicians, managers of public companies and members of far-right groups in Rome which had deeply infiltrated the economy of the capital.
Alemanno, a former agriculture minister under controversial former premier Silvio Berlusconi, is a leader of the Brothers of Italy-National Alliance party, a small right-wing formation whose roots go back to the Fascist Party of former dictator Benito Mussolini.
Alemanno has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing as the investigation has progressed and yesterday he reiterated his innocence, saying the new claims — which were reported in many Italian newspapers, including Corriere della Sera and Il Fatto Quotidiano — were completely false.
“It is a claim that is totally unfounded. I did not bring any money abroad nor to Argentina,” he said.
“I am the only mayor of Rome who ended up poorer at the end of his term than when I started, because I had to sell a house and take out a mortgage to pay the debts of the election campaign.” he declared in a statement issued by his staff.
Alemanno did admit to visiting Argentina, saying his trip to the country took place over the New Year of 2011 to 2012, when he said he came to the country with his family and a large group of friends, in order to go visit the “glaciers of Patagonia.”