Italy Scores Anticorruption Own Goal

Author:Mr Richard Gibbon and Alex Villers
Profession:Squire Patton Boggs LLP

The Italian Government recently approved a bill known as the Spazzacorrotti, or "Bribe Destroyer." The anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle, or Five Star Movement, which took office after campaigning to tackle bribery, has been championing the bill as a "revolution in the fight against corruption" that would allegedly save the country billions of euros. However, the same Five Star Movement may well have scored a spectacular own goal, having just become embroiled in a high-profile bribery scandal related to the construction of A.S. Roma's new football stadium, the 52,500-seat Stadio della Roma, a project that has been beset by difficulty.

The Codice Penale

The Codice Penale, or Italian Code of Criminal Procedure (the Code), contains most of the historic provisions of Italian law that prohibit bribery and corruption.

Specifically, the Code prohibits active and passive bribery related to public officials (that is to say, the conduct of the person offering the money or other advantage or benefit, and the conduct of the corrupted public official receiving the money or other advantage or benefit). The Code also prohibits passive bribery between private parties (that is to say, it criminalizes the violation of duty by a manager, director, or executive in exchange for money or any other advantage or benefit). Anyone found guilty under the bribery and corruption provisions of the Code is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 12 years.

Italian Law in Practice

Though the Code appears strong on paper, the footballing adage reminds us that "games aren't won or lost on paper." That maxim appears to hold true with regard to corruption in Italy more generally.

Indeed, it has been estimated that the Italian economy loses up to EUR 236 billion euros a year to corruption. If accurate, that figure equates to approximately 13% of gross domestic product and 150% of the annual public health budget. Moreover, it is 12 times larger than the Italian police force's funding. Finally, 89% of Italians believe that corruption in Italy is "extremely widespread," 84% believe it is "part of business culture" in Italy, and 80% think it is so prevalent that it often goes unreported.

As a result, Transparency International consistently regards Italy as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. On the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, Italy took 60th place out of 174 countries, scoring on a par with Cuba. In 2017, Italy came in 54th alongside Mauritius and Slovakia. In...

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