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Little progress seen in Italy, 20 years after Clean Hands

Former graftbuster Di Pietro says corruption worse now

17 February, 20:02
Little progress seen in Italy, 20 years after Clean Hands

(ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - Most commentators said on Friday that Italy has made little progress in cleaning up its public life on the 20th anniversary of the first arrest of the 'Clean Hands' corruption probes.

Some said the situation had actually gotten worse.

The ingrained graft uncovered by the Clean Hands probes caused a storm that swept away the political establishment which had ruled Italy for most of the post-war period, causing the demise of the once-dominant Christian Democracy party.

Clean Hands still sharply divides public opinion.

Some considering it a worthy crusade while others claim it was a witch-hunt perpetrated by left-wing magistrates who only targeted parties on the other side of the political spectrum.

But there seems to be a consensus that the country has failed to fix the weaknesses of its political system or slash corruption since the scandal erupted.

"The situation has got worse," said Antonio Di Pietro, the former Clean Hands magistrate who is now head of the Italy of Values anti-graft party.

"We had a country that was ill with a serious tumour 20 years ago. Now we have a metastasis". Stefania Craxi, the daughter of former premier and Socialist party leader Bettino Craxi who died a fugitive of justice in Tunisia in 2000 after being implicated in the corruption, said Cleans Hands harmed the country.

"The effect of Clean Hands was that we experienced a civil war instead of the normal alternation of reformist and conservative political parties," said Craxi, an MP who was a member of former premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party until December. Remarks by the head of Italy's audit court on Thursday supported the arguments of those who say there has been little or no improvement.

"Lawlessness, corruption and malfeasance are phenomena that are still largely present in the country," said Audit Court President Luigi Giampaolino in a speech inaugurating the judicial year. "Their dimensions far exceed what is often brought to light with great difficulty". photo: Italy of Values leader Antonio Di Pietro when he was a magistrate working on the Clean Hands probes.

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