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The Lombardy region ordered 75,000 surgical gowns and 7,000 sanitising kits from the company in a contract worth about €500,000 in April.

The company later decided to donate the first batch of 50,000 gowns, instead of taking money.

Mr Fontana then ordered a bank transfer of €250,000 from his private account in Switzerland to his brother-in-law. The payment was blocked by one of the banks, which notified financial police.

Mr Pensa said Mr Fontana wanted to compensate his brother-in-law for the loss of profit he suffered by converting the purchase into a donation.

About half of Italy’s 35,000 coronavirus deaths have been in Lombardy, Italy’s northern industrial and financial heartland. 

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