Rome mayor faces fresh corruption allegations

Raggi questioned over life insurance policy as part of corruption probe.

Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi, of the anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), faces fresh corruption allegations following an eight-hour hearing by prosecutors on 2 February.

Raggi was being questioned over her approval of the nomination – subsequently withdrawn – of Renato Marra as head of the capital’s tourism department. The mayor insists that the highly-paid appointment had nothing to do with Marra being the brother of the once-powerful Raffaele Marra, Raggi's former right-hand man and city personnel chief who is currently in jail.

Raffaele Marra was arrested in December on suspicion of accepting illegal payments from a property developer in 2013 while he was head of the capital's housing policy.

Fresh corruption allegations emerged during Raggi's hearing on 2 February, with the mayor denying all knowledge of a €30,000 life insurance policy bought for her by close associate Salvatore Romeo, as reported by Italian weekly news magazine l'Espresso.

Romeo reportedly bought the policy for the future mayor in January 2016, before being appointed by Raggi as her top political adviser, tripling his salary. Romeo, who appeared in a viral photograph with Raggi on the roof of city hall, allegedly spent about €100,000 on a dozen life insurance policies, for his relatives as well as M5S members.

Raggi Romeo speaking on roof of Campidoglio

However, in late December, M5S leader Beppe Grillo forced Raggi to sack Romeo, as well as her then deputy mayor Daniele Frongia. Grillo was responding to the fall-out from Marra’s arrest and the resignation of Raggi's environment councillor Paola Muraro over alleged environmental crimes.

The stream of allegations of corruption and cronyism since Raggi came to office last summer is proving deeply damaging to the populist M5S which prides itself on being the “clean” alternative to mainstream Italian political parties.