ROME, Italy: Three government officials have told Reuters that Italy canceled the sale of a military drone company to Chinese investors.
The move is the latest in the efforts by Prime Minister Mario Draghi to curb Beijing’s influence on the Italian economy, the third-largest in the eurozone.
In 2021, the government opened an investigation into the 2018 sale of a 75 percent stake in Alpi Aviation to the Chinese group, which is made up of China Corporate United Investment Holding (CCUI) and CRRC Capital Holding, which are, in turn, controlled by the Management Committee of Wuxi Liyuan Economic Development Zone and SASAC.
After the probe, Rome decided to annul the deal, concluding that those involved should have informed the government about the transaction under Italy’s so-called golden power regulations, aimed at protecting strategically important assets.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office has declined to comment, but the decision was ratified at a cabinet meeting last week, the sources said.
The operation was conducted through a chain of investment vehicles originating from a Hong Kong-based firm called Mars, which holds 75 percent of Alpi Aviation.
An official also told Reuters, but without providing details, that as well as annulling the deal, the Italian government has imposed fines on those involved.
The case became public in September when Italian tax police announced they were looking into a possible breach of rules regarding the sale of military materials, and six people were placed under investigation.
The lawyers for Alpi Aviation declined to comment, but the case prompted Italy’s parliamentary committee on national security (COPASIR) to urge the government to strengthen the golden power rule.
“Rome should create a body similar to the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, which actively investigates any market deal deemed of strategic importance and not only notified transactions,” said COPASIR member Enrico Borghi, according to Reuters.