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
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: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue