Mimmo Lucano, a Mayor who gained international fame for transforming the shrinking community by welcoming migrants, is to stand trial for breaching migration laws and other serious crimes in June.
Among other claims, he has been accused of organising fake marriages to help migrants win residency.
Lucano is the suspended mayor of a small town in southern Italy.
His trial is scheduled to start on June 11, in Locri, Calabria.
The accusations against him, formalised by a judge on Thursday, included embezzlement, abuse of office, abetting illegal migration and breach of public procurement laws, his lawyer Lorenzo Trucco told dpa on Friday.
“It is something beyond belief,’’ Trucco said about the charges.
Under Lucano’s leadership, the town of Riace was hailed as a model of integration as it was repopulated with hundreds of migrants who were also trained in local artisan crafts, offered jobs and living allowances.
In October, the mayor was suspended and temporarily placed under house arrest, as prosecutors accused him of organising fake marriages to help migrants win residency in Italy and illegitimately giving a trash collection contract to a migrants’ cooperative.
Lucano denied all the charges.
In 2018, the U.S. magazine Fortune included him on a list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and the mayor counts German film-maker Wim Wenders, who made a documentary about Riace and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, among his fans.