Italian charity faces police scrutiny

POLICE are assessing a report alleging inappropriate financial conduct at a Melbourne-based charity run by some of Australia's leading Italian community figures.

The Carlton-based CO.AS.IT, funded by the Australian and Italian governments, is a welfare, education and cultural organisation for Italian migrants.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed that police are assessing a ''report'' alleging inappropriate conduct.

''As this process remains under way, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage,'' the spokeswoman said.

Fairfax Media is also aware that senior ranks of the Health Department have raised issues concerning CO.AS.IT's handling of home-based support services for Italian senior citizens.

The allegations to the police come after growing unease among some members of Melbourne's Italian community about the operations of CO.AS.IT. Former Victorian MP for Brunswick Carlo Carli has recently questioned management about a previously unknown entity called the Italian Services Institute, which appears to have received millions of dollars of donations from CO.AS.IT in the past decade.

Mr Carli briefly worked for CO.AS.IT managing its heritage centre, Museo Italiano, but was retrenched on the grounds of irreconcilable differences when he started asking questions about the charity's operations.

CO.AS.IT chief executive Giancarlo Martini-Piovano has been in his role since 1974.

''The only thing I can say is that CO.AS.IT has done nothing wrong, in every sense, and I have not got anything else to say,'' he said.

At CO.AS.IT's general meeting in November, management refused to answer members' questions about the charity's finances.

Meanwhile, concerns about the organisation have been raised twice in the Italian parliament by politicians with particular concern for expatriate Italian communities.

CO.AS.IT has substantial land holdings in Carlton. It also runs a childcare centre and a travel agency and supports the teaching of Italian in Victoria.

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