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She was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in contrada Màini ("Maini street") in Lusiana, a little village 30 km from Vicenza in the region of Veneto, Italy. She spent her adolescence in Orbassano, a town near Turin, being raised in a traditional Roman Catholic family and attending a Catholic school.
In 1964, she went to study English at the Bell Educational Trust's language school in the city of Cambridge. She met Rajiv Gandhi, who was enrolled in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge in 1965 at a Greek restaurant while working there, as a waitress to make ends meet. Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi married in 1968, following which she moved into the house of her mother-in-law and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
In 1980 her name appeared in the voter's list for New Delhi prior to her becoming an Indian Citizen. At the time she was still holding Italian Citizenship. A violation of Form 4 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, which states that "Only the names of those who are citizens of India should be entered on the electoral rolls." When she did acquire Indian Citizenship, in April 1983, the same issue cropped up again, as her name appeared on the 1983 voter's list when the deadline for registering had been in January 1983.
The Italian citizenship law of 1992 did open a window of opportunity for those who lost their citizenship prior to 1992 to re-register as Italian citizens until the deadline of 31 December 1997. Sonia Gandhi has neither confirmed nor denied that she took advantage of this opportunity. At present the Government of India does not allow dual citizenship.
Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte in 1991 claimed that she was controlling accounts worth $2 billion dollars in her minor son's name.
Harvard scholar Yevgenia Albats cited KGB correspondence about payments to Rajiv Gandhi and his family, which had been arranged by Viktor Chebrikov, which shows that KGB chief Viktor Chebrikov sought in writing an "authorization to make payments in U.S. dollars to the family members of Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi" from the CPSU in December 1985. Payments were authorized by a resolution, CPSU/CC/No 11228/3 dated 20 December 1985; and endorsed by the USSR Council of Ministers in Directive No 2633/Rs dated 20 December 1985. These payments had been coming since 1971, as payments received by Sonia Gandhi's family and "have been audited in CPSU/CC resolution No 11187/22 OP dated 10/12/1984. In 1992 the media confronted the Russian government with the Albats disclosure. The Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure and defended it as necessary for "Soviet ideological interest."
In 2008 her party appointed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh was the only international leader to initially refuse data provided by the German authorities during 2008 Liechtenstein tax affair