Head of worst-hit Italy region is probed for COVID supplies

ROME (AP) — The governor of Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region in the pandemic, acknowledged Saturday that he is being investigated by Milan prosecutors over a lucrative contract to obtain protective medical gowns from his brother-in-law’s company.

The contract for 75,000 gowns reportedly was awarded without public bidding in April, when the coronavirus outbreak was devastating Italy, Italian news reports said.

Gov. Attilio Fontana said in a Facebook post about the probe that he represents the region “responsibly” and was confident about the correctness of Lombardy’s actions.

In the aftermath of an Italian investigative TV program report on the deal, Fontana contended last month that he didn’t know anything about the contract, which reportedly was valued at more than a half-million euros (more than $600,000).

The governor insisted that the region never paid for the gowns, which were reportedly eventually donated to Lombardy. The region at the time was struggling, like all of Italy, to obtain vitally needed medical protective gear for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients.

Fontana’s wife has a minor stake in the company, according to Italian media.

The governor is a prominent figure in Matteo Salvini’s right-wing opposition League party, which often rails against corruption among public officials. In a tweet on Saturday, Salvini blasted the probe as “one-way wrong justice.” Lombardy is a League stronghold.

Meanwhile, some politicians from the center-left government’s parties called Saturday for Fontana’s resignation.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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