(CNN)Italian media reports questioning the resume and academic records of Giuseppe Conte, a law professor and political novice tipped to be Italy’s next prime minister, have reached fever pitch — but the parties backing him are pressing ahead with their choice.
President Sergio Mattarella called Conte to the Quirinal Palace in Rome on Wednesday after his name emerged as a possible candidate for the PM’s office following talks between the leader of the populist Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, and the leader of the far-right League, Matteo Salvini, according to the the president’s website.
But in the past few days, a series of media reports have raised questions as to whether Conte had embellished his resume, which is publicly available on the Chamber of Deputies website and is dated September 2013.
In one section, Conte says from 2008 to 2012 he “perfected and updated his studies” at New York University (NYU).
An NYU spokeswoman, Michelle Tsai, said in a statement to CNN that the university records “do not reflect Giuseppe Conte having been at the University as a student or having an appointment as a faculty member.”
However, the university added that “while Mr Conte had no official status at NYU, he was granted permission to conduct research in the NYU Law library between 2008 and 2014, and he invited an NYU law professor to serve on the board of an Italian law journal.”
Conte also stated that in 2001 he conducted “scientific research” at Cambridge University Girton College. In response to a CNN inquiry, the university said that it was unable to disclose personal data without the consent of the individual involved.
In his resume, Conte claimed he taught at the University of Malta in the summer of 1997 for the “international course of study entitled: European Contract and Banking Law.”
But the University of Malta confirmed to CNN that “it has no record of Giuseppe Conte ever forming part of the resident academic staff.”
“However this does not exclude that he may have been involved in lecturing duties during short courses organized in the summer of 1997 by the now defunct Foundation for International Studies (FIS) which was a separate entity that worked in close collaboration with the University of Malta,” a spokesman for the university said, adding that some academics from the Faculty of Laws “seem to remember him being one of the lecturers during this short course.”
Conte also said he studied for three months in 1993 at the Internationales Kulturinstitut, a language school in Vienna, Austria.
Its director, Ann Safranek told CNN, that due to data protection policy, “we have decided not to provide any more precise information about our clients.”
Conte citeed the Sorbonne in Paris as a place where he conducted “scientific research” in 2000.
A spokesman for the university said in a statement to CNN: “After internal inqueries at the Sorbonne School of Law, the Sorbonne Doctorate School of Law (École doctorale de droit de la Sorbonne ie for post-graduates and doctors) and the Direction of International Relations, the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne cannot confirm that Mr Conte has ‘studied’ at our university that summer.”
“Nevertheless, he could have come to visit some colleagues in a laboratory without informing our services,” he added.
Conte also said he conducted studies at Yale University and Duquesne University in the US for three months in the fall of 1992 “to further his study of the North American contract law.”
Yale said it would perform a “thorough check of the records” and would not comment further until the checks were complete.
Duquesne University confirmed Conte was at the university in the early 1990s “as part of an affiliation with the Villa Nazareth program, a cultural institution in Rome founded by Domenico Cardinal Tardini, that fostered international student exchanges.”
The program “enabled students from Rome to attend graduate programs at Duquesne University and undergraduates from Duquesne to attend classes at Villa Nazareth.”
Duquesne said Conte “was not enrolled as a student” but was engaged in legal research and in advancing the work of “our affiliation with Villa Nazareth, working on legal issues related to a charitable trust that funded the program, and helping select the program’s participants.”
Efforts to reach Comte for comment were unsuccessful.
The Five Star movement rejected accusations that Conte embellished his resume.
“There’s no reference [in his CV] to masters or other university titles, but the simple and accurate description of his work as a scholar and university professor,” the movement said in a post on its official blog.