'We are like dogs sent into a kennel': Italian tycoon's suicide note reveals his bitterness, writes Patricia Clough in Rome

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HE WAS a capable, ambitious, professional manager who made the right friends and did the things 'one did' to get on in his country and his times.

Gabriele Cagliari made it to the top of ENI, Italy's state-owned petrochemicals giant. If he passed huge sums to the political parties that ruled public life, and his career, it was because, he said, his predecessors did. He never imagined that the system would collapse, that people like him would be dragged down with it. Or that he would die, crushed by shame and the nightmare judicial system.

Francesco Saverio Borrelli, the chief of the courageous Milan magistrates who are uncovering the putrefaction of the old regime, has spoken with sadness of the 'tension between the past and present' which destroyed Gabriele Cagliari.

What this tension meant emerges from a letter Mr Cagliari wrote to his wife and family on 3 July, more than two weeks before he pulled a plastic supermarket bag over his head and committed suicide in Cell 103, Wing Five of San Vittore jail, Milan.

'My dearest Bruna, Stefano, Silvano, Francesco, Ghiti,

'I am about to cause you more very deep pain. I have reflected hard and I have decided I cannot bear this shame any longer. The way things that everyone did - even magistrates, in Milan too - are being treated as criminal has struck down only some of us, who are being pilloried and made the target of public resentment. (The magistrates) really treat us like non- persons, like dogs to be sent back every time into the kennel.

'I have been here for more than four months, detained illegally . . . Moreover I am 67 and only in exceptionally grave and dangerous circumstances can the law permit me to be kept in such degrading conditions.

'But, as you know, there are other reasons for this pitilessness . . . every one of us, whose dignity is already compromised in the eyes of the public just because we are under investigation or worse, have been arrested, must adopt a 'co-operative' attitude, which consists of betrayals and accusations . . . According to these magistrates, every one of us must be denied a future . . . (Many people) want to make us a mass of outcasts, desperate and persecuted . . .

'I am convinced that the magistrates consider jail as nothing but a working instrument, a psychological torture where people's dossiers can ripen or moulder, indifferently. Jail is nothing but a cage for animals without minds or souls. In here one is abandoned, kept in deliberate ignorance of one's rights, condemned to inactivity and sloth. People become lazy and dulled, debased and desperate. We are dogs in a kennel which any prosecutor can pick for an exercise to demonstrate that he is better or more severe than another who did the same thing several days or even hours earlier. Even among them there is competition . . . It is impossible to accept their judgment . . .

'The few of us who fell into the hands of this 'justice' are becoming the scapegoats of the national tragedy generated by this revolution. I am convinced I must refuse this role.'

Addressing Bruna, his wife, 'soul of my soul, my one great love,' he bitterly regretted the times they put off being together and 'the thousands of days we had promised to be together, you and I, and which I am reducing to a sigh. I am ending a life lived in a hurry, always putting off the important things, real life, to chase after others far away like mirages.'

He asked to be cremated, and that Bruna should keep his ashes until her death, 'after which they should be scattered over some sea'.