Italy minister under pressure to resign over taxes

Pressure mounts on Italy's minister for equal opportunities to resign over tax troubles

Associated Press
Italy minister resigns over tax troubles
.

View photo

Italian Minister for Sports Josefa Idem attends a press conference at Chigi palace, Premier's office, …

ROME (AP) -- Italy's equal opportunities minister, a German-born, eight-time Olympic kayaker, is facing pressure to resign over tax troubles in a case with both racist and sexist overtones.

The anti-immigrant Northern League party is leading the charge against Josefa Idem, with one party official, Mario Borghezio, calling her a "whore." Another local Northern League official recently suggested that another immigrant Cabinet member, Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge, be raped — an indication of the level of political discourse these days as Italy's cross-party government tries to forge ahead with measures to boost Italy's ailing economy.

Idem has been a strong supporter of Kyenge, Italy's first black Cabinet minister, and they are two of the seven women in the government of Premier Enrico Letta. They are also both immigrants to Italy, a country without a long history of immigration.

But Idem has lost support, even from within the center-left, after admitting to irregularities in the tax payments on one of her residences. She has apologized, saying she trusted others to make sure the structures were built and registered correctly, and said the problems were being fixed.

Letta met with Idem on Monday to discuss the matter. Initially, he had expressed full support in her and she refused to resign. There was no immediate comment from either after the meeting ended.

But the chorus of politicians calling for her resignation has grown, particularly as Italians are coping with a grueling recession and a crackdown by authorities on rampant tax evasion. Some estimates say as much as 20 percent of Italy's GDP is lost to tax evasion, and Idem's critics say a government minister must be a model for correctness.

The issue concerns a house-turned-gymnasium that Idem built in Ravenna near another house owned by her husband. By declaring the gym as her primary residence, while her husband declared the house as his, Idem was able to avoid paying certain housing taxes on the gym for four years. According to Italian press reports, there were also code violations in the renovation of the structure into a gym.

Idem, who retired after the London Olympics with a total of five medals over eight Games, says she will pay whatever penalty is owed, just as any other citizen would do.

"They have called me a thief and a whore. I'm not infallible but I'm honest and I won't let anyone doubt me," she told a news conference on Saturday in the government briefing room, her lawyer by her side. She said that in Germany, a minister wouldn't be forced to resign for such an oversight.

In fact, even in Italy such matters don't always result in resignations: Last year, then-Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli rebuffed demands by consumers group Adusbef to resign over questions about the purchase price he reported to the state about the value of his Rome apartment. He was the Italian state accountant at the time of the purchase. Grilli remained in place, and then-Premier Mario Monti expressed his support.

A few years earlier, the then-minister for economic development, Claudio Scajola, was forced to resign over questions about the price he paid for a Rome property. Both denied any wrongdoing.

"Things are changing in Italy, in a better way, in a way that people are going to be held accountable for their mistakes," said Roberto D'Alimonte, a political science professor at Rome's LUISS university. "She claims it was her accountant who made the mistakes: She left everything in the hands of the accountant. It is less and less acceptable in Italy," he said in a phone interview.

Idem has balked at the violent tone of the insults hurled at her, telling Corriere della Sera on Monday that the campaign is a "massacre" and a "lynching."

"In the span of one week I have gone from being valued as an esteemed person to a criminal," she said. "My image has been destroyed and this is unbearable."

Coming to her defense has been Kyenge, who tweeted that Borghezio's comments against her were "unacceptable."

Also defending her was Ivan Scalfarotto, vice president of Letta's Democratic Party, who noted that Idem's portfolio as equal opportunities minister may have exposed her to extra criticism.

"Defending women, gays and transsexuals has transformed Josefa Idem into the perfect target for those aiming to stop progress in civil rights in our country," he said.

___

Colleen Barry contributed from Milan.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

Rates

View Comments (1)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • Norwich Information Security MS

    Online, accredited, top ranked. NSA Center of Academic Excellence. Recognized by the Department of Homeland Security. Download your free brochure!

    AdChoicesNorwich UniversitySponsored
  • Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia

    Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia MOSCOW (AP) — The arrest of a Russian telecoms and oil tycoon has sent shock waves through the country's business community, with some fearing a return to the dark days of a decade ago, when the Kremlin asserted its power by imprisoning the country's…

    Associated Press
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • As Fed takes baby steps, Cramer's trick for profit

    In turn, Cramer says making money in the market, involves looking at the environment through the lens of the Fed. "The trick is to remember that they speak for the common person," Cramer said. "The Fed wants the common person to make money." With that backdrop always in mind, Cramer says it becomes…

    CNBC
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • Costco Stores in Canada to Stop Taking American Express

    “The credit card relationship between American Express and Costco Wholesale Canada will not be renewed when it expires” on Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mail to Canadian customers. The message was attributed to Lorelle Gilpin, vice president of marketing and membership for Costco…

    Bloomberg
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Master's Degree in Nursing

    CCNE accredited MS in nursing in as few as 18 months online. Learn more today!

    AdChoicesNorwich UniversitySponsored
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

    New website reveals how to save $1,000's when you're living paycheck to paycheck. See exactly how.

    AdChoices Media ForceSponsored
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • 6 Things Debt Collectors Wish You Knew

    The work debt collectors do is not popular, and has become increasingly derided by those who don’t like what we do or simply don’t know the facts about debt collection. Too often, debt collection is painted with a broad brush to create a portrait that isn’t accurate, and doesn’t properly educate…

    Credit.com
  • Masters in Law Degree-Non JD

    Elevate your knowledge. Advance your career. Get Your Masters in Law. Online and Accredited. Graduate in Less Than 2 years. Free Brochure!

    AdChoicesChamplain CollegeSponsored
  • Boeing may have outfoxed Musk, but it could have bigger problems

    Elon Musk is arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds of the 21st Century, but he was outsized an old school aerospace giant. Boeing won the bulk of NASA’s contract for a space taxi.  One of the other companies vying for the deal is SpaceX, the company headed by Tesla’s Musk, will get a…

    Talking Numbers