New Italian anti-corruption law receives its first approval after a two-year deadlock

12 April 2015, by Claudio Cesarano.

After almost two years of delays, amendments and disagreements among parties, on the 1st of April the anti-corruption law sponsored by the President of the Italian Senate Pietro Grasso received its first approval in the Italian Senate with 165 votes in favor, 74 against and 13 blanks.

The main impulse was provided by the recent scandal involving the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport: four people were arrested on charges of corruption and tender irregularities in connection with construction of the high speed railway and other major infrastructure works. The Minister Maurizio Lupi, although not under investigation, has decided to resign after being attacked for his close ties with some members of the alleged corruption ring. “What brings me here are not judicial reasons but political ones, as I feel the duty to be accountable for the choices I’ve made as a Minister” declared Maurizio Lupi during his resignation speech at the Parliament on the 20th of March.

This scandal is on top of the seemingly endless updates on the corrupt practices behind the organization of EXPO-Milano and to the “Mafia Capitale” investigation, an alleged network of corrupt politicians, public officials and organised crime figures based in Rome.

The 2014 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International shows that corruption is perceived as a deeply entrenched problem in Italian society: the country, in fact, came in 69th place, ranking last in Europe with Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

The first comprehensive anti-corruption law was approved in Italy only in 2012, implementing the UNCAC as well as the suggestions and recommendations of international organizations. Although it represented a big step forward in the fight against corruption, this law was defined as “incomplete” by the magistrates’ governing body.

In fact the “Severino law”, by the name of the Minister of Justice during Monti’s Government, did not include the offences of self-laundering and false accounting. Even more problematic is the very short limitation period for corruption offences: that is 7 years and a half when, according to ISTAT, on the average it takes 8 and a half year from the crime to completion of the appeals trial. In fact, as noted by TI, periods of limitations in Italy run until the judgement comes into force: therefore the period of limitations covers the proceedings in the appellate instance

In 2014 the creation of the Autorità Nazionale Anticorruzione (ANAC) was hailed as a new chapter in the fight against corruption: this independent body, in conformity with Article 6 of the UNCAC, has the duty to guarantee transparency in public administration. The President, Raffaele Cantone, has declared that the most compelling goals of ANAC will be to investigate irregularities in tender award and to protect whistleblowers who expose corrupt practices.

The new anti-corruption law, which now needs the approval of the Chamber of Deputies, is intended to tighten up punishments for vote-buying and false accounting (already introduced in 2014 with the law 186/2014) and to introduce the crime of self-laundering.

About Claudio Cesarano

Claudio Cesarano is an intern at Access Info Europe.