Nobel Prize winner calls in police over missing charity cash

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The Independent Online

When Dario Fo, the anarchist, comedian and playwright, won the Nobel Prize in 1997, he set up a charity using the €800,000 (£550,000) to help the handicapped. Since then it has become one of Italy's most famous funds, with other acclaimed artists and celebrities chipping in.

Now, Fo is alleging that the manager of the initial project helped himself to the cash.

In 1997, Fo, then aged 71, amazed Italy's literary and political world - delighting those on the left, enraging the rest - when he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

The following year, he and his wife and artistic partner, Franca Rame, set up a charity, The Nobel for the Disabled, to buy vans and set up other projects to benefit the disabled. Sales of lithographs by Fo, and contributions from other artists, swelled the fund. Photographs on the couple's websites show the charity's work in full swing.

The first sign that something was badly wrong with the charity's management came in a bald, paid announcement in La Repubblica newspaper on 8 July 2004. "Franca Rame, Jacopo and Dario Fo," it ran, "founders of the Committee of The Nobel for the Disabled, communicate that Mr Luciano Silva of Milan no longer collaborates with the above-named committee and has no other relations with the Rame-Fo family." Mr Silva had been involved with Fo's charity from the early days and was its manager. But several months ago, Fo and Rame learnt all was not well when some supporters of the charity discovered that funds they had paid into the committee's bank account had been removed.

This week Rame and Fo finally called in the law. On Tuesday, Rame and her lawyer spent more than two hours in the office of the public prosecutor Giulia Perrotti in Milan, outlining the evidence against Mr Silva, whose present whereabouts are unknown.

Yesterday Fo said: "I can't say Silva is a nasty man and a bandit because it's all sub judice and no charges have been laid. It's obvious he's done something wrong, something not according to the law but I don't yet have the proof."

Fo remains a dynamic presence in Italy. Last year his latest iconoclastic play, The Two-headed Anomaly , a satire on Silvio Berlusconi, enjoyed a sell-out national tour despite apparent attempts by friends of the Prime Minister to ban it from Milan. Only last month, Fo was back on state television after many years on the black list, delivering an extraordinary three-hour lecture on Modena's Romanesque cathedral.

Additional reporting by Alessandra Maggiorani