Italy's deputy prime minister has denied that his party took money from Russian investors after reports that one of his close aides discussed a secret oil deal in Moscow.
"Never taken a ruble, a euro, a dollar, or a liter of vodka in financing from Russia," Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League party, said in a statement on July 10.
"I have sued in the past, I will do it again today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow," Salvini said following the report by U.S. website BuzzFeed, citing what it said was a transcript of secret talks in Russia.
Buzzfeed said it had received a 75-minute audio recording of talks in Moscow on October 18 involving three Italians, including Gianluca Savoinia – a close aide of Salvini’s -- and three unidentified Russians.
Buzzfeed said the six men discussed a possible deal involving a Russian company selling oil worth $1.5 billion at a discounted rate, thus allowing the League to receive part of the difference.
The website added that there was no evidence such a transaction subsequently took place.
Salvini was in Moscow at the time that the meeting allegedly took place, but there was no suggestion he took part. He has previously visited Moscow and been seen in T-shirts praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Italian opposition parties have called for an investigation.
Moscow has attempted to establish ties with far-right European populist movements in recent years.
Putin said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that his United Russia party was working closely with Salvini's anti-migrant League Party.