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Italy’s Junior Culture Minister Resigns Amid Antitrust Investigation and Art Scandal

 |  February 4, 2024

Vittorio Sgarbi, Italy’s controversial junior culture minister, has resigned from his post amid a growing antitrust investigation and allegations of a connection to a stolen painting. The resignation was announced during a conference held late in the day in Milan on Friday, where Sgarbi cited the ongoing scrutiny by the country’s antitrust body as a primary reason for stepping down.

The antitrust investigation, initiated last year, focused on the money Sgarbi allegedly pocketed from public appearances at cultural events. According to reports by the Italian daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Sgarbi earned approximately €300,000 over nearly nine months from these appearances. The antitrust body raised concerns, asserting that these fees were “activities incompatible with a government office.” Sgarbi defended himself, arguing that he had received payment for sharing his expertise on art, stating, “I talk about art, like any writer or lecturer does.”

However, on Friday, as he announced his resignation, Sgarbi acknowledged the Antitrust notice and claimed that he could not discuss art to avoid conflicts of interest. “According to the Antitrust notice, I could not talk about art to avoid conflict of interest. And therefore I would like to announce here my resignation as Undersecretary of State for Culture,” he stated.

Read more: Italy Probes Major Low-Cost Carriers Over Price Fixing

Adding to the controversy, last month, Sgarbi faced another investigation regarding his alleged connections to a stolen Rutilio Manetti painting from 2013. Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that a similar-looking Manetti painting, exhibited in 2021 in the Tuscan city of Lucca, was suspected to be the stolen artwork. The painting displayed in Lucca was reported to have originated from Villa Maidalchina, a property owned by Sgarbi.

The dual investigations have cast a shadow over Sgarbi’s tenure as junior culture minister, raising questions about ethical conduct and potential conflicts of interest. As the Italian political landscape absorbs the shock of this resignation, attention now turns to the outcomes of both the antitrust investigation and the alleged connection to the stolen painting, as Italy navigates the aftermath of this high-profile departure from its cultural administration.

Source: Art News