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Italy: Anti-Corruption Law Adopted

(Nov. 7, 2012) On October 31, 2012, <?Italy's Parliament approved new anti-corruption legislation, the Provisions for the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption and Illegality in Public Administration [Disposizioni per la prevenzione e la repressione della corruzione e dell'illegalità nella pubblica amministrazione]. The law has been under consideration by the Parliament for over a year. (Philip Pullella, New Italy Law Tackles Rampant Corruption, REUTERS (Oct. 30, 2012); Atto Camera n. 4434-B [Chamber of Deputies Act No. 4434-B], Parlamento Italiano website (Oct. 31, 2012); Bill No. 4434-B [in Italian], Chamber of Deputies website (text as presented to the President of the Italian Senate on Oct. 18, 2012].)

Adoption of the law follows the end of the era of rampant corruption under the rule of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who earlier in October was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, having left office in November 2011. He faces additional charges as well. Berlusconi, reportedly a defendant in almost 50 cases, “has never served a single prison sentence due to either successfully appealing or having the statute of limitations on the charge expire.” (Maureen Cosgrove, Italy Passes Anti-Corruption Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Oct. 31, 2012).) Aside from Berlusconi, “[a]t least 20 current legislators have been convicted of crimes including corruption or ties with the Mafia; more than 120 are under judicial investigation,” Italian newspapers have stated. (Sarah Delaney, Italy Lawmakers Approve Anti-Corruption Legislation, LOS ANGELES TIMES (Oct. 31, 2012).)

Among other measures, the new law:

  • bans persons who have been definitively convicted of corruption, or any serious crime, from running for public office or having access to certain public sector posts;
  • increases prison sentences for public officials convicted of abuse of office, demanding bribes, or influence peddling;
  • increases penalties for corruption in the private sector, adding the crime of corruption between private parties;
  • calls for the adoption of a code of conduct for public officials;
  • requires local and regional governments to institute an anti-corruption plan and renew it annually;
  • requires local governments to post their budgets and the cost of public works on their websites, with transparency in hiring also required; and
  • guarantees anonymity for whistleblowers. (Pullella, supra; Delaney, supra Davide Del Monte, Italy Corruption Vote: New Law, New Start?, Transparency International website (Oct. 30, 2012).)

The new law also provides for the establishment of a national anti-corruption authority and other related bodies, in implementation of article 6 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption of October 31, 2003 (U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime website) and articles 20 and 21 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of January 27, 1999 (Council of Europe website) (Bill No. 4434-B).

Earlier in October, the government had made public a draft proposal that would establish the post of an anti-corruption commissioner, imbued with investigative powers. It had also announced constitutional amendments aimed at reasserting control over spending by regional governments reported to have been at the heart of several recent cases of alleged corruption. (Pullella, supra.) Transparency International, a civil society organization that monitors corruption worldwide, has urged Italy to create an independent anti-corruption agency. (Id.)

According to news reports, a study by the Court of Accounts (Corte dei conti) has indicated that corruption costs Italy some €60 billion (about US$78 billion) a year. (Delaney, supra.) The Court of Accounts “is responsible for the ‘a priori’ audit of the legality of Government acts, and also for the ‘a posteriori’ audit of the State Budget’s management.” (The Role of the Italian Corte dei Conti, Court of Accounts website (last visited Nov. 2, 2012).) In February 2010, the Court had announced that the number of corruption cases in Italy had increased by 229% over 2009, and Court President Tullio Lazzaro, expressing concern over the significant rise in public corruption scandals in the previous year, from 2008 to 2009, had stated “legal sanctions are no longer a sufficient deterrent to criminal behavior.” (Carrie Schimizzi, Italy Court Says Corruption Cases Have Dramatically Increased over Past Year, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Feb. 17, 2010); for an overview of Italy’s anti-corruption legislation, see Italy AC Brief 2012, International Bar Association website (Apr. 20, 2012) [search by title].)