'Bribesville' trial ends with stiff sentence

IF ANY of Italy's huge army of corrupt politicians, businessmen, officials, go-betweens and hangers-on had hoped to be let off lightly, they will be far less optimistic now.

The first major trial in Italy's Tangentopoli (Bribesville) scandals ended late on Thursday night with a swingeing eight years' jail sentence for Sergio Cusani, a financier who handled some 150bn lire ( pounds 61.2m) worth of bribes from the huge Ferruzzi industrial and foodstuffs empire to political parties.

Cusani, who pocketed substantial amounts himself in the process, also has to pay back almost 168bn lire plus interest to Ferruzzi, pay the court costs and a 16m lire fine.

The sentence, which he will have to serve only if it is confirmed by appeal courts, was one year longer than that requested by Antonio di Pietro, the Milan public prosecutor who has become the hero of the investigations. It was a sign that the courts take the charges - falsifying accounts, violating the law on party financing and illicit appropriation of funds - extremely seriously.

Although Cusani, a Neapolitan aristocrat, was the sole accused, the case became in effect a trial of the old political class. Night after night for six months, the nation had sat riveted in front of its television screens as two former prime ministers - Bettino Craxi and Arnaldo Forlani - seven former cabinet ministers and more than 100 prominent businessmen, politicians and other witnesses were shown giving evidence about - or denying knowledge of - the system which many Italians had suspected but whose dimensions were undreamed of.

The chief characters became household figures - the black- robed Dr di Pietro, gesticulating animatedly as he rattled away at top speed in his broad southern accent; Sergio Spazzali the grey-bearded, gentlemanly chief defence lawyer; Giuseppe Tarantola, the calm, white-haired president of the court; and Cusani himself, gaunt, silent, looking impassively down his long thin nose at the whole business.

In a sense he was not the only one convicted. The court found that Mr Craxi had taken a bribe of over 3bn lire, that Cusani had delivered another 1bn to the former Communist Party, and that a further 200m had gone to the Northern League.

Mr Craxi's lawyer, Salvatore Lo Giudice, protested sharply, saying that it amounted to 'prior judgment on offences which Bettino Craxi has not committed and which he no longer has the right to demonstrate are unfounded'. This trial will be followed by innumerable others - including many against Mr Craxi and other much bigger figures than Mr Cusani - but it is unlikely that they will have quite the same impact.

The magistrates fear that once the full brunt of the Tangentopoli prosecutions reaches the courts, Italy's painfully slow judicial system in the cities could be paralysed.

That prosecuting a corrupt political class can still be a dangerous business was brought home shortly before the sentence was announced when Dr Di Pietro's policeman son, Cristiano, who was on duty in the court, found a small bomb under a bench outside the courtroom.

The building was cleared and the bomb was found to be real, but not primed. 'It was a warning to me,' said Dr Di Pietro. 'Someone was saying 'that's enough.'

Meanwhile a new political order is still in the making. Prime minister-designate Silvio Berlusconi was optimistic yesterday that he would quickly form a government with neo-Fascist and federalist allies, despite skirmishes over the key job of interior minister.

MILAN - Italian magistrates asked yesterday that Mr Berlusconi's brother and 29 others, including the former government leader, Bettino Craxi, be brought to trial on corruption charges, Reuter reports. The request followed an inquiry into alleged bribes paid on property deals with Italy's biggest savings bank, Cariplo.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave