Renzi's Star Minister Under Fire for Family Tie in Banks Scandal

  • Maria Elena Boschi faces resignation call after bank rescue
  • Leading opposition party alleges conflict of interest

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s star government minister has been dragged into a banking scandal involving her father, with the biggest opposition party calling for her resignation for an alleged conflict of interest.

Maria Elena Boschi, 34, parliamentary affairs minister and an influential Renzi lieutenant, has come under fire because her father Pier Luigi Boschi served as vice-chairman of Banca Popolare dell’Etruria e del Lazio SC.

The Rome-based bank was among four lenders rescued by the government last month, a restructuring which has triggered protests and the suicide of Luigino D’Angelo, a pensioner who lost money in the bank. Boschi is a former shareholder in the lender, according to her parliamentary declaration of assets posted online.

The Five-Star Movement, the leading opposition party, has presented a motion of no confidence in Boschi in the lower house of parliament, alleging “favoritisms” and “an unacceptable conflict of interest.” The motion is expected to be defeated given the majority enjoyed by Renzi’s Democratic party.

Rescue Plan

Boschi’s only comment to reporters, quoted in Italian media, was: “We will discuss in the parliamentary chamber, we will vote and then we will see who has the majority.” She has said she was not present when a cabinet meeting approved the rescue plan.

Renzi entrusted Boschi with shepherding his biggest reforms through parliament including overhauls of the electoral system and of the Senate.

Renato Brunetta, chief whip for the Forza Italia party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, said the center-right, including his party and the Northern League, would present a motion of no confidence in the government on Wednesday and described Boschi as “a daughter of this government, a daughter in a conflict of interest.”

Closed Ranks

Boschi’s colleagues in the Democratic party closed ranks. Filippo Taddei, Renzi’s economic adviser, said the banks’ rescue “is not motivated by a conflict of interest, but to the contrary by the will to respond to people’s needs and to make that banking segment secure.”

Boschi’s father could not be immediately reached for comment. Banca Popolare dell’Etruria declined to comment. Boschi’s mother Stefania Agresti, a school principal, was quoted by the newspaper Corriere della Sera as saying her daughter was “tired, distraught, above all because she sees us suffer.”

“My husband, in reality, did everything possible to save the bank in the months in which he was vice-chairman. Up to the end,” the Milan daily quoted Agresti as saying.

Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said last week the government will set up a fund to help savers who lost money in the restructuring. Bonds were written off, handing losses to savers who thought their money was in secure products.

The shares and subordinated debt of Banca Popolare dell’Etruria, Banca delle Marche SpA, Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara SpA and Cassa di Risparmio della Provincia di Chieti SpA were all written off in the restructuring. The four lenders had about 30 billion euros ($33 billion) of combined assets, according to a Bank of Italy statement.

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