Reminder to Italy: Bribery is against the law

Reminder to Italy: Bribery is against the law

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi turned the fight against corruption on its head when he said in a televised interview (following the arrest of the ex-CEO of an Italian defence company) that “Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations.” He added, “These are not crimes. We’re talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. Why, because those are the rules in that country.”

Paying bribes is a crime not only in Italy, but it is against the law for Italian companies to use cash to grease the wheels of commerce overseas. Italian law makes clear that bribery by executives is illegal and adds that companies should establish anti-corruption systems to be in compliance with the law.

Public officials have a responsibility to not only obey the law, but also speak in support of existing laws, former premiers included.

Italy ratified the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in December 2000. It requires each signatory country to make foreign bribery a crime. It is a key instrument for curbing the export of corruption globally because the 39 signatory countries are responsible for two-thirds of world exports and three-quarters of foreign investment.

Bribery is against the law for good reasons: it hurts economic fundamentals and disadvantages the most vulnerable. Bribes are used to circumvent procurement rules and avoid laws meant to protect people from all types of misbehaviour, from relaxed regulations on building permits to paying over the odds for military equipment a country doesn’t need.

Transparency International’s Exporting Corruption? Country Enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Progress Report 2012 expressed some serious doubts about reforms introduced by the Berlusconi government to change the laws regarding statutes of limitations resulting in the dismissal of the majority of foreign bribery cases.

A politicised environment

Talk of bribery as 'business as usual' comes at a time when high-profile scandals are dominating the news in Italy alongside coverage of the upcoming election. Many believe the timing of prosecutions and arrests are political because different political parties stand to lose or benefit from the stories surrounding the companies involved.  

Finmeccanica, an aerospace company that is 30 per cent owned by the government, allegedly paid bribes to win contracts in India for helicopters; it denies any wrongdoing. Its CEO, who was defended by Silvio Berlusconi in the TV interview, was arrested this week. Monte dei  Paschi di Siena, a bank in Tuscany, has admitted using secret derivatives deals to mask hundreds of millions of euros in losses.

Despite the veneer of cynicism that threatens to overshadow the real issues here, Italians should demand that the rule of law is upheld within the country, irrespective of who perpetrates the crime. The business culture can only change when those at the top endorse change by acting in new ways.

Resources

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Delia Ferreira Rubio elected Chair of Transparency International

At Transparency International’s Annual Membership meeting on 15 October, Delia Ferreira Rubio was elected chair and Rueben Lifuka was elected as vice-chair, along with seven new board members.

How to keep desperately needed humanitarian aid out of the hands of the corrupt

Around the globe, tens of millions of people need humanitarian assistance from governments, humanitarian aid agencies, and the UN, but even when lives are at stake and people at their most vulnerable, corruption and other abuses are not uncommon.

How the IMF can have real impact on fighting corruption

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is meeting in Washington DC this week. We want to send a strong message about what the multi-lateral lender can do to have greater impact on fighting corruption.

The impact of the Azerbaijani Laundromat

Since the story of the Azerbaijani Laundromat broke, Transparency International has been following up on the allegations and, along with OCCRP, calling for action to hold to account the politicians, businesses and intermediaries who were named in this complex money-for-influence scandal.

Corrupción en ascenso en América Latina y el Caribe

Conversamos con más de 22.000 personas en 20 países en América Latina y el Caribe sobre corrupción. Tomando en cuenta el tamaño estimado de la población de estos países, eso significa que alrededor de 90 millones de personas pagaron sobornos.

Corruption on the rise in Latin America and the Caribbean

Transparency International asked more than 22,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean about corruption in their daily lives. The survey also looks at how institutions are perceived and how corruption has been developing in each country.

Sustainable Development Goals turn two: time to ensure justice for all

September 25, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Transparency International highlights the need for governments to set meaningful targets for success.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world