Connect to share and comment

Prosecutor switches arena to fight Mafia ties with the EU

A new party focuses on Italy's declining reputation.

His next investigation would end his career. De Magistris’s famous “Why Not” case uncovered a network of more than 100 public figures and businessmen suspected of using EU and state funds in exchange for favors. The evidence also pointed a finger at then-Minister of Justice Clemente Mastella and put Prime Minister Romano Prodi under suspicion.

Minister Mastella demanded that De Magistris be removed from the “Why Not” case and reassigned to a different post.

“It was one of the darkest pages in the history of the Italian judiciary,” De Magistris said.

Without the power to prosecute, De Magistris finally resigned in March of last year and accepted an opportunity to run for the European Parliament.

De Magistris and other IdV candidates will boost their party’s votes to 8 percent in the upcoming European elections, doubling their numbers from the 2007 Italian Parliament elections, projects Italian agency IPR Marketing.

Throughout Rome, stacks of campaign posters of the left, center and right parties are illegally plastered on public walls or any available surface. IdV has instead launched a systematic campaign online through YouTube, Facebook and blogs.

The party’s leader, Antonio Di Pietro, led the most famous bribery investigation in Italy in the early 1990s. The investigation, called “Operation Clean Hands,” put Silvio Berlusconi — then only a top businessman — under inquiry for bribery and illegal financing of the Italian Socialist Party.

As history has it, Berlusconi entered politics with his own money, won the elections by campaigning on his three national TV channels and, more importantly, earned parliamentary immunity.

Today, Di Pietro has lined up 47 candidates, most of them hand-picked for their active roles in society, to contrast the Berlusconi ticket. But the injection of morality that Italy of Values is promising to bring to Europe will not earn it the majority of the 72 seats reserved for Italy at the EP.

Polls predict that Italians will remain enchanted with Berlusconi’s newly expanded party, called People of Freedom (PdL), which includes Clemente Mastella, the “Why Not” suspect and former minister of justice, as one of its candidates.

Experts say conflicts of interest and collusions with the Mafia won’t affect the results on election day. A majority of Italians are expected to vote for PdL. Similarly, the recent imprisonment of Berlusconi’s corporate lawyer, as well as the Italian leader’s ambiguous relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring TV star, seem to have left Berlusconi’s popularity untouched.

What benefits Berlusconi, said author and Italy expert Alexander Stille, is Italians’ disillusionment with politics.

“Berlusconi has been able to take advantage of incredibly high levels of cynicism that Italians have about politics," Stille said. “Things that would have destroyed other politicians in other countries have been survivable for Berlusconi.”

Italy’s wounded political system has, on the other hand, allowed a small party like Italy of Values to gain momentum, while the largest opposition party, Partito Democratico, is expected to lose 5 percent of the votes received in the 2007 Italian Parliament elections.

“There’s a lot of frustration with the PD,” Stille said. “I think that opposition feeling is trying to find a new channel.”

Read more about Italy:

The untouchable Berlusconi

Been ripped off eating in Rome?

Cruising the cobblestones