Italy’s populist de facto leader Matteo Salvini seems set on shaking Europe’s financial establishment to the core.
One day after the Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the League party, called for the elimination of Italy’s central bank and the country’s financial regulator, Consob, saying the two institutions should be “reduced to zero, more than changing one or two people, reduced to zero”, or in other words eliminated, and that “fraudsters” who inflicted losses on Italian savers should “end up in prison for a long time”, Salvini prompted fresh shocked gasps in Brussels and Frankfurt when he raised the possibility of seizing Italy’s massive gold reserves away from the country’s central bank.
“The gold is the property of the Italian people, not of anyone else,” Salvini said in comments to reporters on Monday, according to the FT.
The controversial comments, which were seen as threatening the “independence” of the Italian central bank, whose one-time head was none other than Mario Draghi, prompted Giovanni Tria, Italy’s economy minister, to defend the independence of the central bank.
Earlier in the day, Italy’s populists called on lawmakers to pass legislation stating that its gold holdings belong to the state, Bloomberg reported.
The gold ownership bill presented by euroskeptic lawmaker Claudio Borghi of the League adds to an already tense relationship between the Bank of Italy and the coalition government. It’s also sparked criticism from opposition politicians, and some national media argue that it may allow the government to raid the gold reserves to fund spending promises.
Borghi has rejected the accusation and said he’ll ensure Parliament has ultimate power. His concern is that ambiguity of ownership means that a victorious legal action against the central bank — for inadequate supervision, for example — leaves open the possibility of a claimant getting compensation in gold.
“My bill only aims at making clear that the gold belongs to the state, not to the government,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday. “If there are doubts on our intentions, we can also pass another law saying none of the gold reserves can be sold unless there is a majority of two thirds or more of both houses of Parliament.”
According to Bloomberg,