Magistrates decry Amato 'solution'

MILAN magistrates predicted yesterday that a 'political solution' to Italy's corruption scandals would paralyse their investigations. And Carlo Ripa di Meana, the Environment Minister, resigned in protest. A storm of criticism has broken over the fragile government, under whose proposals politicians in jail on suspicion of receiving illegal funds would be released.

The 'solution', announced on Saturday by Giuliano Amato's 'clean' government, was supposed to provide swift justice to avoid clogging the judicial system, and end some of the abuses. Instead, newspapers condemned it as a move to 'wipe the slate clean'. The Milan deputy public prosecutor, Gerardo d'Ambrosio, said the political world 'has decided to absolve itself'. Opposition leaders have appealed to President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro not to sign the measures; if he does, there will be a fierce battle in parliament.

The strongest criticism is of a decree which makes it a mere offence, punishable by a fine, for a politician to receive illegal funds for his party. Until now it was a crime, punishable by jail.

'If Italians are to be reconciled with their institutions, and the economy is to pick up, we must be sure that justice is functioning normally,' Mr Ripa di Meana said yesterday. 'The two conditions cannot be met by the present government. I have therefore resigned.'

And from today the many cases which the Milan, Rome and other prosecutors are investigating or prosecuting must be handed over to prefects, who are government officials and who will administer the fines. Any politicians and others who are in jail on these charges will be released and others will stay free. Many of the politicians, entrepreneurs and go- betweens caught up in the scandals are being prosecuted under this clause of the law on party financing. Others are accused of the more serious crime of corruption, some of both.

The Justice Minister, Giovanni Conso and his colleagues retort that the fine - three times the sum illegally received - and a five-year ban from holding public office, mean transgressors will not get off lightly. But Eugenio Scalfari, editor of La Repubblica, said the illicit funds revealed so far alone amounted to more than one trillion lire ( pounds 500m). Are individual politicians to pay these back? Or the parties which, deprived of their ill- gotten income, are broke?

Strong objections were also raised to a bill allowing those charged with corruption to negotiate a suspended jail sentence in return for confessing all, paying back the money and leaving public life for good. This is seen as unfair to people accused of other crimes who do not have the chance to make such deals and is therefore considered likely to be rejected by the Constitutional Court.

The measures, four decrees and four bills, were drawn up partly in response to a plea by the Milan prosecutors, inundated by work, for a 'political solution'. But yesterday the entire team, headed by Saverio Borelli, the chief public prosecutor, and Antonio Di Pietro, leading the investigations, issued a statement saying its inquiries would be paralysed.

In the statement they said: 'We hope everyone will face up to their political and moral responsibilities before the Italian people.' Mr d'Ambrosio added in an interview: 'With our investigations we reached the danger level for the political system that rules us. And the system could not tolerate this. It will do everything to stop us.'

The floor leader of the Northern League, Marco Formentini, said: 'The interests of the corrupt parties have won; the government has decided to suffocate 'Clean Hands' (the codename of the investigations).'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee