A former spin doctor to Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s hard-Right League party, has been accused of supplying drugs to young male prostitutes and paying them for sex.
The accusations are acutely embarrassing for Mr Salvini, who has always taken a hard line on drugs.
Luca Morisi is credited with being the architect of Mr Salvini’s highly successful social media operation, using a specially designed software matrix nicknamed The Beast to help the former deputy prime minister accrue millions of followers on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Mr Morisi, 48, resigned his post earlier this month, citing a “personal matter that represents a serious fall as a man” and referring to “unresolved existential fragilities.”
It emerged on Monday that he was under investigation for drugs offences.
Now come allegations from two young Romanian men that he contacted them on gay escort websites and promised them €4,000 for a night of sex last month.
They say that Mr Morisi gave them cocaine and GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, sometimes referred to as a date rape drug.
Luca Morisi was the architect of Matteo Salvini's success on social media
“That night destroyed my life,” one of the young men, identified as Petre, told the newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera in lengthy interviews on Thursday.
Asked what happened on the night he allegedly spent with the social media manager, he said: “Sex and drugs.”
Speaking from Romania, he said: “I’m back home, I’m really in a bad way because of the drugs we took. I was off my head for days.”
He said that he was so shaken and ashamed by what had happened that he had called the Carabinieri police. “I wanted to ask them for help,” he said.
The accusations come just days before millions of Italians are to vote in city and municipal elections across the country and are likely to damage the League’s prospects.
MPs have accused Mr Salvini, whose party is included in Italy’s broad coalition government, of hypocrisy and double standards, particularly after he said he would stand by Mr Morisi.
While on the campaign trail in January last year, Mr Salvini rang the doorbell of a family of Tunisian migrants, asking them in front of television cameras whether they were drug dealers.
“When a friend makes a mistake that you don’t expect, and Luca hurt himself more than others, at first you get angry with him, and in a big way,” Mr Salvini said. “But then you stretch out your hand to help him get back up.”
Angela Barbaglio, a district prosecutor, confirmed that Mr Morisi “has been inserted in the register of people under investigation for the alleged transfer of narcotic substances.”
Fabio Pinelli, a lawyer for Mr Morisi, denied that he had supplied drugs to the two young Romanians. He said his client was anxious to “explain every aspect of this affair.”