'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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home