Strange days in Italy. Whilst digging into illicit goings on surrounding the awarding of contracts for wind farms in Sardinia, Italy’s Carabinieri police appear to have uncovered the insidious sequel to a mysterious illegal masonic group known as Propaganda 2, or P2 for short. Italy’s press have wasted no time in labelling the sequel, Propaganda 3. Or P3 for short.
P2, for those not familiar with one of the more insidious aspects of Italy’s past, was regarded by some as being a ‘state within a state’, or shadow government. Curiously, a title similar to the ‘state within a state’ moniker is also sometimes used to refer to the Sicilian mafia, which is known to some as the ‘state within the state’. Notice the ever-so-slightly different articles – ‘a’ and ‘the’. And yes, it is suspected that there was collusion between the ‘state within a state’ and the ‘state within the state’.
The P2 gang, which included prominent journalists, members of parliament, industrialists, and military leaders, up to and including one Silvio Berlusconi, was also rumoured to have connections to the mafia. P2 wanted to create an authoritarian version of democracy in Italy, and the P2 group had its very own, albeit secret, manifesto. Bribery and corruption were the means chosen by P2 maestro one Licio Gelli, to achieve the aims of this subversive group, which came to be declared illegal under an Italian law.
Indeed, an Italian Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry concluded that P2 was to all intents and purposes a secret criminal organisation which sought to influence others in order to permit activities relating to organised crime to proceed unhindered, so it was in many ways like Italy’s mafia.
Well, now investigators have uncovered what appears to be an organisation which is very similar to the now defunct (one presumes, but is not 100% certain) P2. Hello P3, possibly. Berlusconi thinks the P3 is the invention of Italy’s, left-wing, press, and that the naughty four who appear to have masterminded the new P3 group, were merely a bunch of ‘old losers’.
Pressure Exerted on Judges and Politicians
Those suspected of being members of the so-called P3 have been allegedly exerting pressure on Italian judges, politicians, and even Italy’s minister of justice. People very closely associated with Silvio Berlusconi have been caught on police wiretaps, which begs the question: ‘Has Berlusconi been attempting to force his pet wiretap amendment legislation through in order to keep the actions of the P3 under wraps?’ Others in Italy may well be asking the same question.
The supposition above regarding the wiretap bill urgency assumes that Silvo Berlusconi is mixed up with the P3 lot. Italy’s Carabinieri police who have been delving into this mysterious organisation’s goings on, appear to believe a certain ‘Caesar‘, who is referred to numerous times in wiretapped conversations, may be Silvio Berlusconi. Others though, wonder whether ‘Caesar’ was the nickname given to one Marcello Dell’Utri, who is also under investigation for his alleged part in the P3 plot.
Berlusconi’s lawyer, and member of Italy’s parliament, Nicolo Ghedini stated that Berlusconi cannot be the ‘Caesar’ in the taped conversations because on some of the dates and locations mentioned in the recorded conversations Silvio Berlusconi was elsewhere.
Has Berlusconi Lost Control?
It does beggar belief a little to suppose that Berlusconi did not know what was going on P3-wise, especially seeing as those caught up in the P3 scandal investigations include his very own party coordinators and as well as his long-time close associate – Mr Dell’Utri.
If Berlusconi really did not know what was happening, then one could argue that he has completely and utterly lost control of his own People of Freedom political party.
Dell’Utri was convicted of collusion with Italy’s mafia, though the case is still moving through Italy’s appeal system. Others alleged to be implicated in the P3 scandal include, as mentioned before, high level Berlusconi party coordinators, as well as a recently appointed appeal court judge in Milan. This judge is now facing disciplinary proceedings, and his appointment was controversial in the first place.
Roads do appear to lead towards Italy’s flamboyant ‘playold’ leader. So far though, direct connections between Berlusconi and the P3 bunch have not been established.
Other illustrious names from the world of Italian politics and business may well come out in the wash. Indeed, one illustrious name is that of Lombardy region president, Roberto Formigoni, who is alleged to have explored exploiting the ‘friendship’ of the appeal court judge, one Alfonso “Fofò” Marra to help get himself out of a slight electoral pickle – see this article, in Italian, over on the website of Italian newspaper, La Repubblica: E Formigoni chiese aiuto alla loggia “Marra può far qualcosa per la lista?” – And Formigoni asked the lodge for help “Can’t Marra do something for the slate?”. The plot thickens, if it can become any thicker that is; it’s already as dense as molasses.
Wind Farms to Wind Bags
From wind farms to wind bags, one might comment. And this is exactly the reason why many are criticising Berlusconi’s proposed new (anti) wiretap laws.
In Italy seemingly unconnected acts of skulduggery often turn out to have wider implications – the P3 case is a classic example of just such a situation. Italy’s law enforcement authorities know full well that lifting seemingly innocuous-looking stones in Italy often leads to the uncovering of various cans of worms.
It is also well known by Italy’s forces forces for law and order that the line between white collar and mafia crime in Italy has become very blurry indeed. Berlusconi is probably aware of this too, hence, probably, the overly restrictive nature of the proposed new wiretap legislation, which has now born the brunt of criticism from, amongst others, no less than the United Nations.
The criticism seems to have finally taken its toll, and Berlusconi admitted defeat today saying he had been forced to back down over the wiretap bill.
Heck knows what this daft bill has cost Italy’s taxpayers in what looks to become wasted parliamentary time. One wonders if Italy’s finance minister Giulio Tremonti had one of his minions carry out a cost benefit analysis. One suspects not. Maybe Berlusconi is hoping the wiretap manoeuvre will be paid for out of Italy’s austerity measures?
Berlusconi the Shrewd
Corruption scandals involving Berlusconi government members and Co seem to be coming in a never ending stream these days, and sooner or later, something will give. Berlusconi himself appears to have acknowledged the scenario of his downfall, as he recently bemoaned the fact that he could not find anyone to be his successor.
Whether Berlusconi’s time at Italy’s helm will really come to an end is far still uncertain though, as Italy’s ever-tanned supremo is a very shrewd mover who has managed to keep himself afloat for many years. He may well succeed in keeping his leaky ship from sinking completely once again. But if he does not plug some of the holes, his ship will soon sink, and may not even make it to the other side of summer. Berlusconi himself has announced that he intends to pass his summer plugging holes in his ship, sorry, rebuilding his People of Freedom political party.
Looks as though Superman Berlusconi might not have much time for extra-curricular activities this summer. He’s going to have to go some to keep this latest batch of kryptonite at bay though.
But even if Berlusconi does fall, the alternatives are not overly appetizing for Italy’s population.
Corruption Getting Out of Hand in Italy
Corruption is a growing problem in Italy – and a top Italian state prosecutor warned that levels were getting out of hand back at the start of 2009 (See the Corruption a Go-Go section). In view of such a warning, which is not the first, one would expect wiretapping powers in Italy to be strengthened, not weakened, but then Italy has never been a place to appreciate simple logic, alas. It looks as though, sadly, kids may continue to die in Italy.
Is Giulio Tremonti Well?
An aside: Italy’s Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, who is pushing austerity measures through Italy’s parliament appeared on television the other day looking very worn and a friend who was watching the news with me wondered whether Tremonti was ill. Perhaps he is, or perhaps he is worried about something else. Ever stronger winds do seem to be threatening to blow down Berlusconi’s house of cards. Perhaps this is what is troubling Italy finance minister?
Thanks for getting this far! I think I’ve covered the main points of the complex P3 thing, but if you spot omissions or inaccuracies, take me to task, and I’ll amend if necessary.
Further reading, and reference for this post: P2 entry on Wikipedia