Italy’s Corruption Scandal Anniversary

This year, 2012, is the anniversary of the start of the infamous Mani Pulite corruption scandals and investigations.

In case you are unaware, Mani Pulite was a nationwide investigation into the extensive problem of political corruption in Italy.  In 1992 the lid was lifted on a can of worms and sparked a scandal which rocked Italy to its core.  Despite the ructions though, nothing, aside from the political landscape, really changed.  Actually, that is slightly inaccurate.  The bribes simply got bigger.

That bribery is still commonplace in Italy is evidenced by the almost continual stream of stories of skulduggery involving Italy’s politicians on all sides of the political spectrum in Italy.  A couple of examples would be the Filippo Penati and Marco Milanese cases.

Penati is a left-leaning politician belonging to Italy’s PD – Democratic Party.  This gentleman is under investigation for corruption and instigating bribery in Milan.  Then there is the case of Italy’s ex-Finance minister Tremonti’s political right-hand man, Berlusconi PdL party member Marco Milanese, who is also being investigated for corruption and more.  Curiously, Milanese was saved from arrest by his parliamentary friends.  There are plenty more examples.  Even Italy’s ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been caught up in corruption investigations – such as the Mills case for which Italian prosecutors would like Berlusconi to spend 5 years in an Italian jail.

Sadly though, the mani pulite period of recent Italian history had virtually no effect on levels of corruption in Italy.  Moreover, from the annual comments of judges presiding over Italy’s highest courts, levels of corruption in Italy are not falling but increasing.

To combat corruption in Italy, there are laws against this crime, as one might expect.  One of which is for something called ‘concussione‘ which is when someone hints that a bribe might be in order.  This is otherwise known as extortion, which is also a crime in Italy, though under Italian law, it is not exactly the same as concussione.

Evil Alliances in Italy

While it has never been confirmed, it is widely suspected in Italy that mafia investigating judges Borsellino and Falcone were assassinated as a result of an alliance between evil politicians and organized crime.  Coincidentally, perhaps, Gionvanni Falcone was murdered in May 1992 which was a mere month after storm clouds had begun accumulating over the distorted relationship between business and politics in Italy.

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The Mani Pulite Scandals Rocked Italy, but did not Kill Corruption

The Mani Pulite Scandals Rocked Italy, but did not Kill Corruption

Only Greece is Worse

Only Greece is regarded as being more corrupt than Italy within Europe – and look what is happening in Greece.  There were fears Italy would go the same way.  This could still happen although Italy’s technocrat prime minister is introducing measures which seem to be allaying fears that Italy will become the next Greece.  Monti still has a long way to go to transform Italy into a modern country and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he may be taken out, either politically, or God forbid, physically by one of Italy’s many powerful cliques, to which many politicians belong, or even by Italy’s mafia.  The cliques could, of course, call upon the services of organized crime for assistance.

Unholy Tri and Quadrangles in Italy

It would not be inaccurate to state that an unholy triangle exists between politics, business and organized crime in Italy.  Some, I believe, would go a step further and claim that the triangle is actually a quadrangle with the Roman Catholic church being a holy member of the unholy alliance.  Certainly the finances of the Vatican are far from transparent and links between the church in Italy and organized crime in Italy are suspected.  Banks managing Vatican cash may have been used as part of complex money laundering systems.

Corruption Not Ended by Investigations

Unfortunately, despite the investigations which began in the early 1990s, the problem of corruption in Italy’s political system was not resolved.  One reason for this is that the mani pulite investigations were never really concluded.  They fizzled out in the late 1990s.

Some of those behind the corruption took their own lives, a few ended up in jail, but for the vast majority, it was corruption as usual.

The mani pulite scandal left the, albeit vague, impression that levels of corruption in Italy had been reduced, when in actual fact, the opposite was true.  The corrupt took a little more care and played upon the fact that the public believed the investigations had taken care of the problem.  This was far from true, as is clearly evidenced by my Corruption Levels in Italy in 2011 article.

Some of the names of those mixed up in the 1990s political corruption scandal are back in politics today.

Corruption in Italy in 2012 Still Increasing

Last week, a senior judge who presides over Italy’s Corte Dei Conti, Italy’s legal auditors, stated that corruption in Italy is still a huge problem.  More alarmingly, the judge, Luigi Giampaolino, also stated that corruption levels were still increasing.  Lawlessness is still widespread in Italy, the good judge added for good measure.

So much for mani pulite – many hands in Italy are far from clean today, as former graftbuster turned politician, Antionio di Pietro knows only too well.  There is some hope, though.

Italy’s parliament is drafting an anti-corruption law, although nobody really knows when it will be ready.  More importantly, perhaps, are moves to reform Italy’s electoral system.  The electoral system is responsible for allowing corruption bottoms to take up far too many seats in Italy’s parliament.  Corruption at local government level is also a major problem in Italy.

Even more work for Mario Monti.  The poor guy has an awful lot on his plate, he really does.

Comments

  1. says

    Alex – Thanks for posting this. It’s a sad but necessary reminder. For those, like you, who live and work in Italy, it’s important to keep things in perspective.
    Many would like to think of Italy only in terms of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. I did when I moved to Salerno back in 1989. I loved the mediterranean lifestyle, the joy in life, the incredible willingness of people to put themselves out to help you as a friend, and, of course, the food and climate. It was only when I began to understand the mechanisms involved in trying to earn a living there that my enthusiasm became tempered with understanding.
    I moved to Milan at the beginning of the ‘Mani Pulite’ scandal, and it totally coloured my experience. As you know, it inspired me to write my novel ‘Romanzo: Love and Corruption Italian Style’ . Years later, I found myself in a cinema club in Salerno watching the movie ‘Gomorrah’ with my mother-in-law. It was truly chilling, especially knowing those things were happening very close by, and they get closer every day.
    Although I no longer live in Italy, I still love the place. How can you not? But as anyone who read Roberto Saviano knows, economic recovery is needed, but corruption is the number one issue in Italy. It’s not just about bribery, it’s about a mindset, when even well-educated professionals think it’s OK to download pirate movies, double park, or evade tax as a matter of course.
    The work you do on Italy Chronicles is so important because you tell the good with the bad, and you keep people vigilant.
    Keep it up!

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