Founded by ex-Italian magistrate Antonio Di Pietro, the Italian Values – Italia dei Valori (IdV) party stands for honesty and integrity. The IdV party is also staunchly anti-corruption.
Now, Di Pietro is facing allegations that he embezzled money from his party to construct a property empire – something which the Italian politician vehemently denies. He believes he is the victim of a smear campaign designed to remove him and his party from politics in Italy for good.
Some Italians believe Di Pietro is honest, others are not so sure. After recent events, even fewer Italians will be convinced Di Pietro and has party are what they claim to be.
Who is Antonio Di Pietro?
Antiono Di Pietro is the Italian magistrate renowned for initiating the mani pulite – cleans hands – political corruption investigations in Italy in the early 1990s. These investigations lifted the lid off the ‘tangentopoli’ – bribesville corruption system and led to scandals which rocked Italian politics to its very foundations causing the downfall of Italy’s so-called First Republic.
Di Pietro’s IdV political party emerged in 2001.
During the cleans hands period, Di Pietro set his investigative sights on a certain Silvio Berlusconi. As a result, Di Pietro was subject to various smear campaigns and was eventually forced to abandon Italy’s judiciary.
The IdV political party was an attempt by Di Pietro to continue his fight against political corruption from within Italy’s political system. Incidentally, the clean hands/bribesville investigations eventually fizzled out but the corruption did not cease, if anything, it became worse.
Championing the cause of honesty and condemning the evils of corruption helped Di Pietro’s party do moderately well in elections and it established a presence in Italy’s parliament.
To some, it looked as if Italy finally had a political party which might attempt to finish the clean-up that its ex-magistrate founder began.
Bribesville Two is on Now
Today, Italy is in the midst of a period similar to the 1990s clean hands and bribesville situations, only this time round, instead of lifting the lid on a can of worms, it is looking as if Antonio Di Pietro is one of the worms, or that is the impression that is being given.
Rumours that Di Pietro may not be as clean as he wants the world believe had been floating around for some time. I heard them myself a few years back. A few Italians told me that Antonio Di Pietro was no better than the people he purported to oppose, although the people in question were merely repeating stories covered in Italy’s papers.
Italy’s press had contained coverage of Di Pietro’s property dealings long before the present scandal erupted, yet the matter never garnered national attention. That all changed last week and now the reputation of the man who liked to give the impression that he was one of the good guys is on the line.
The allegations against Di Pietro have been taken seriously simply because they were made by Italy’s most authoritative investigative documentary series – Report. For reasons which have never been clear to this Italy watcher, Italians tend to regard television as being much more believable than printed papers. Italians do not read newspapers anyway – for many, the television is their primary source of information and news. The advent of the internet has changed this situation, but only slightly. Obtaining objective, accurate news in Italy is almost as hard as finding an honest politician.
The Di Pietro case hit Italy’s headlines after Report delved into the political leader’s alleged empire of more than 50 properties and attempted to discover how Di Pietro had funded the purchases. The investigation intimated that Di Pietro had either been diverting party funds into his own personal bank account or may have used part of a donation to fund the purchases, possibly a little of both. The donation in question was received by Di Pietro before his Italian Values party existed.
What also came to light during the Report investigation was how opaque the finances of Di Pietro’s Italian Values IdV party appeared to be – just as opaque as the finances of virtually all of Italy’s political parties. Di Pietro has denied his party’s accounts are opaque.
As a consequence of the documentary, the future of the IdV party is now in question, as is Di Pietro’s leadership. Sadly, what appeared to be Italy’s most honest party has now had its reputation tainted by the foul smell of embezzlement.
Another Smear Campaign?
In an attempt to defend himself from the allegations that he is no better than the rest, Di Pietro has stated that he does not own as many properties as the Report investigation claimed and that the documentary did not paint an accurate picture. One of the properties, says Di Pietro, was bought by his wife using earnings derived from her career as a lawyer.
Of the 56 properties he is supposed to own, some are footpaths, access roads and even a public garden, or so claims Di Pietro. As far as I can tell, so far Di Pietro has not clarified exactly how many properties he owns, although one report in Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quaotidiano states that Di Pietro and his family may hold between seven and eight properties.
Utterly convinced he’s been targeted by a smear campaign, Di Pietro has stated he will sue those who have been making claims about his misuse of party funds for defamation.
Could it be that someone is trying to remove Di Pietro from the political scene in Italy? Di Pietro will have made more than a few enemies during his career as both a magistrate and a politician, and he has faced smear campaigns in the past too.
Would someone like Di Pietro who has openly derided others for corruption and embezzling public money be so stupid as to do the same himself? It seems unlikely, but if it is the case, the next question must be why?
It would be in the interests of some of Di Pietro’s foes to see the back of their ‘honest’ adversary.
In the meantime, Antonio Di Pietro will continue to battle for his political life and fight to save his IdV party.
Di Pietro Photo by Filippo Caranti aka Terrasque
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