A staunch cabinet ally of Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has been sacked amid a corruption probe, sparking a cabinet rift.
Armando Siri, the undersecretary of transport, stands accused of taking bribes worth €30,000 from renewable energy companies operating in the south of Italy.
He denies any wrongdoing.
Siri has also served as an economic advisor to Salvini — leader of the League political party — and in recent months had been one of his closest confidants.
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of the left-leaning Five Star Movement, told the press after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday: “Today, the Cabinet of Ministers has decided, on the proposal of the head of the government, to launch the procedure for the dismissal of the Secretary of State Armando Siri.”
The corruption case had caused frustration among the Five Star Movement — which is sharing power with the League — and it threatened to withdraw support for the coalition if Siri remained in government.
The emergence of corruption allegations prompted a cabinet rift, with Salvini almost immediately saying that he believed his colleague was innocent.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the sacking was “the right decision”.
Salvini didn’t hide his disappointment, telling journalists immediately after the cabinet meeting that “trials are done by courts”.
He added that Italy was home to “60 million people who are innocent until proven guilty”.