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Italy - Corruption

Corruption and organised crime in Italy are closely intertwined. When investigations into corrupt activities are launched, the involvement of some criminal organisation is usually discovered. By the same token, when organised crime is investigated, the involvement of some corrupt politician or entrepreneur often comes to light. The relationship between corruption and organised crime in the country, however, does not lend itself to conventional analyses imputing to the latter the main responsibility for the spreading of the former. In fact in Italy widespread corruption within the social, economic and political spheres attracts organised criminal groups, encouraging them to participate in corrupt exchange and indirectly boosting their other various illicit activities.

In politics, many people find a solution to their economic problems, and they try to occupy all the possible places where resources are distributed. Around elected politicians there are then cohorts of allies who participate in political activity and share some of the wealth. Finally, at the bottom, there are the masses, the subjects who sustain the whole system on their shoulders.

The public financing of political parties was introduced after the scandals proved that businessmen (oil producers, developers, the pharmaceutical industry, and many more) were receiving favours from politicians in exchange for money. These favors consisted in promoting legislation that brought enormous amounts of money to entrepreneurs. The new law on the public funding of political parties was supposed to make the costs of political activity more transparent. But this was a big lie: politicians and economic actors continued financing one another in a covert manner. The result now is that, while this covert financing continues, we have the most expensive political system in Europe, with even small parties (who do not have a significant number of representatives) receiving exorbitant amounts of money.

Power groups tend to come together irrespective of the nature of the power they exercise. Politicians collude with organised crime as criminal networks guarantee the votes needed for parties to stay in power, particularly at the local level. For organised crime syndicates, corruption is a gateway to winning public contracts and resources and to expanding their influence and power.

Corruption and organized crime are significant impediments to investment and economic growth in Italy. Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 ranked Italy 72nd out of 176 countries evaluated, down from 69th in 2011. Italy lags behind most of its G-8/EU/OECD partners and countries such as Turkey (54th) and Saudi Arabia (66th), and is tied with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sao Tome and Principe. (TIs International Corruption Perceptions Index is an annual poll of polls ranking countries for perceived public-sector corruption.)

According to TIs latest Global Corruption Barometer Report, which is based on a survey performed 2010-2011, less than 30 percent of Italys population believes the government is effective in fighting corruption. In the same survey, Italians rated their Parliament and political parties as very corrupt. In TIs latest Bribe Payers Index, based on a 2011 survey, Italy ranked 15th out of the 28 largest global economies in perceptions of bribe paying, and last among the countries of Western Europe. The NGO Global Integrity (GI) noted in 2010 that Italy had poor mechanisms to fight corruption in public administration and lacked effective laws on conflict of interest. GI also found serious weaknesses in the protection of whistle-blowers and in the regulations governing political party financing, but they have not performed a follow-up study since. Italy began implementing some new anticorruption measures in late 2012.

TI's Corruption Perceptions Index 2008 ranked Italy 55th out of 180 countries evaluated. Among EU states, only Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria scored worse. Moreover, less than 30% of the population believes the government is effective in fighting corruption. In this survey Italians rated their Parliament and political parties as "very corrupt". TI's "Bribe Payer's Index" ranked Italy in the lower third of countries, in the same group as Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Malaysia.

Among the countries of Western Europe, Italy came last. The NGO Global Integrity (GI) noted that Italy has very poor mechanisms to fight corruption in public administration and lacks effective law on conflict of interest. GI also found serious weaknesses in the protection of 'whistle-blowers' and in the regulations governing political party financing. Finally, the World Bank in its 2007 "Governance Matters" report found Italy steadily deteriorating in its control of corruption. Among OECD countries only Mexico and Turkey had lower anti-corruption ratings from the World Bank.

Italy ratified the 1997 OECD Convention on Combating Bribery in September 2000. However, with the recent reorganization of the Corruption Commission, it is unclear whether Italy is able to prosecute the bribery of foreign officials, leaving it unable to fulfill its obligations under the convention. Although Italy has signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, as of January 2008 it has yet to ratify the document. Corruption is punishable under Italian law. As in all judicial processes, much discretion regarding punishment is left to the presiding judge. Most corruption in the recent past has involved government procurement or bribes to tax authorities. Bribes are not considered deductible business expenses under Italian tax law.

Corruption and organized crime are significant impediments to investment and economic growth in parts of Italy. Corruption costs Italy an estimated 60 billion annually in wasted public resources, and effectively combating corruption has been a goal for successive Italian governments. In October 2012, the Italian parliament passed an anti-corruption law promoting transparency in public administration and prohibiting persons found guilty of serious crimes from holding public office. The law also provides for the appointment of an Anti Corruption High Commissioner to head the new National Anti-Corruption Authority (CiVIT), which is responsible for adopting an anti-corruption plan; monitoring its implementation; recommending measures to be taken by other agencies; and conducting inspections and investigations in conjunction with the financial police.

A potential lack of adequate funding provisions, however, could limit CiVITs ability to carry out its mandate. In November 2012, the parliament passed legislation that expanded CiVITs investigative powers and reorganized it as the National Anti-Corruption Authority. The legislation included stiffer penalties for those convicted of bribery-related offenses, protective measures for whistleblowers, and requirements for greater transparency in public contracts. It also prohibits anyone convicted of a serious crime from holding certain public administration positions.

On 22 July 2013, a Pescara court convicted former Abruzzo governor Ottaviano Del Turco to nine years and six months in prison for establishing a criminal association, corruption, and embezzlement in the public health sector between 2003 and 2008. Another eight persons in the case were given prison terms ranging from two to nine years. The National Anticorruption and Transparency Office in the Ministry of Public Administration and Simplification is the governments watchdog on corruption.

There were instances of judges allegedly colluding with organized crime. On March 11, Milan prosecutors requested the indictment for vote buying of a former councilor of the Lombardy regional administration, Domenico Zambetti. He was suspected of having reached an agreement with the Ndrangheta crime syndicate that allowed him to obtain 4,000 votes in exchange for public contracts, jobs for some clan affiliates, and 200,000 euros ($270,000).

The law provides for the protection of public employees who report workplace misconduct to judicial authorities, the Court of Auditors, or their supervisors. Employees may not be punished, dismissed, or subject to discriminatory measures, direct or indirect, that affect their working conditions. Authorities may not reveal the whistleblowers identity during disciplinary proceedings without explicit consent, unless it is indispensable for the defense of the persons accused.

Members of parliament are subject to financial disclosure laws. The Ministry of Public Administration and Simplification encouraged adherence to voluntary guidelines for financial disclosure by the leaderships of all ministries.

Organized crime is particularly prevalent in four regions of the south (Sicily, Calabria, Campania, and Apulia). Organized crime (Mafia, Camorra, Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita) had an estimated 2011 turnover of 140 billion (USD 182B, including legitimate commercial activities accounting for 92 billion/ USD 120B), or 7 per cent of Italy's GDP. Organized crime is involved in murder, racketeering, loan-sharking, drug smuggling, illegal toxic waste disposal, money laundering, and corruption of public officials.

Many thought the four-time Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had been vanquished for good in 2011 when his fourth government ended ignominiously amid allegations of bribery, sex with a minor and infamous so-called "bunga-bunga" parties (orgies) with prostitutes. Berlusconi had been barred from running for public office for nearly five years due to a tax fraud conviction. Citing his good conduct, a court in 2018 ruled that he could once again run.

Imane Fadil testified at Berlusconi's 2012 trial, where he was accused of hosting 'prostitution parties' at his villa in Arcore near Milan. She said that young women dressed as nuns had performed stripteases for a fee and told that they would receive even more if they agreed to have sex with the prime minister. Berlusconi was accused of having sex with a teenage night-club dancer known under the stage name Ruby Rubacuori. He was also charged with abusing his power in a bid to conceal his connection with Ruby.

Italian magistrates launched an investigation into the possible murder of a showgirl who was one of the key witnesses in a prostitution case against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Imane Fadil, 34, a Moroccan model who claimed to have attended eight of the notorious "bunga bunga" soires, died in a Milan hospital on 1 March after a "month of agony". Toxicological tests revealed that she had died of a "mix of radioactive substances".




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