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Despite improvements, Italy is still seen as one of Europe’s most corrupt countries

Italy ranked alongside Saudi Arabia and Rwanda and below Malta when it comes to perceived corruption in an annual index by Transparency International.

Despite improvements, Italy is still seen as one of Europe's most corrupt countries
Rome city councillors hold banners reading "Honesty, Transparancy, Conspiracy of silence" as they protest alleged corruption in 2016. Photo: AFP

Italy has long been perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. But the latest edition of the annual study shows things have in fact improved once again this year.

Italy gained two points once again in Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Released on Thursday, the study ranks perceptions of official corruption levels around the world.

This year's result continues a trend of gradually improving results in the study year on year. However, analysts say they'll be watching Italy closely as they say the trend could easily go into reverse.

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The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived (not actual) levels of public sector corruption, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

As such, the list does not make any claims as to the actual level of corruption in a given country, but rather how much corruption people believe there is.

With a score of 53, Italy improved by two points since 2018 – continuing gradual and sustained twelve-point increase since 2012

“We're happy to see a further improvement but we sincerely hoped for something more,” stated Virginio Carnevali, president of Transparency International Italia.

“The slowdown is due to several problems that our country has always had, without being able to solve them,” he said, citing organized crime, conflicts of interest and lobbying as examples.

The Transparency International report also warned that a lack of regulation in some areas means there’s potential for trouble “where the public sector meets private” in Italy.

According to the report, Italians believe the two most corrupt institutions in the country are political parties and parliament itself.

Map: Transparency International

Italy once again comes in far behind its northern European neighbours in the corruption stakes.

Scandinavia dominated the top spots, with Denmark once again considered the world’s least corrupt country.

Together with New Zealand, Denmark received 87 points, making the two countries the best placed on the list.

Finland is 3rd on this year’s list, with Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway in joint 4th and 7th respectively.

The United Kingdom came 12th and the United States 23rd.

Neighbouring Spain also outdid Italy with a score of 62, as did Portugal (64), and Malta (54)

READ ALSO: Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy's anti-corruption chief

At the bottom of the European table, Hungary scored 46, Greece 45, and Bulgaria came in last with 42.

This is due to the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption, contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world, the organisation adds.

The index measures perceptions of corruption in relation to bribery and the management of public funds in the public sector.

It does not relate to corruption in the private sector, including money laundering and tax fraud.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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