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CRIME

Italy still seen as one of Europe’s most corrupt countries

Despite continued improvements, Italy ranked among the worst in Europe - again - when it comes to perceived corruption in an annual index by Transparency International.

Italy 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 once again ranked among the most corrupt countries in Europe on the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International on Tuesday.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Italy’s score of 56/100 puts it 42nd out of 180 countries on the list, and among the countries in the European Union perceived as most corrupt along with Slovenia (which scored 57) and Poland (56).

Ranked worst among all European Union member states was Hungary, at 43rd place with a score of 53.

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.

READ ALSO: Venetians protest cruise ships and corruption after historic flooding

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

Italy has improved its ranking by three points since scoring 53/100 in last year’s index.

The rankings show improvement over the past decade, as Italy ranked 42nd on the list in 2012.

Transparency International said in its report that Italy’s improvement this year “is the result of the growing attention paid to the problem of corruption in the last decade, and bodes well for the country’s economic recovery after the crisis generated by the pandemic”.

Italy had “reaped the rewards of anti-corruption reforms” over the past year, it said, while stressing that it remains among the European region’s low scorers.

“Legislative gaps need to be urgently filled for lobbying and beneficial ownership in Italy,” Transparency International said.

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

At the top of the table, Denmark, New Zealand and Finland share the desirable position of world’s least corrupt country, followed by Norway and Singapore.

Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany complete the top 10.

With an average score of 66 out of 100, Western Europe and the EU still tops the CPI but progress in recent years has plateaued, the report stated.

“Countries in Western Europe and the European Union continue to wrestle with transparency and accountability in their response to Covid-19, threatening the region’s clean image,” Transparency International writes.

The organisation on Tuesday predicted “trouble ahead for the stagnating region”.

Countries with well-protected civil liberties generally score higher on the CPI, while countries who violate civil liberties tend to score lower, Transparency International writes.

READ ALSO: 12 statistics that show how the pandemic has hit Italy’s quality of life

But even at the top end of the index, countries are failing to improve their records on public sector corruption, according to the report.

The index also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had been used in some countries as an excuse to “curtail basic freedoms and side-step important checks and balances”.

“In authoritarian contexts where control rests with a few, social movements are the last remaining check on power. It is the collective power held by ordinary people from all walks of life that will ultimately deliver accountability,” CEO Daniel Eriksson said on the Transparency International website.

According to the index, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. Two-thirds of countries scored below 50, indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is the most widely-used global corruption ranking in the world and measures how corrupt experts and businesspeople perceive each country’s public sector to be, based on a minimum of three data sources drawn from institutions including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

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

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CRIME

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

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