Up the road in Trani today a judge Angela Schiralli will give her decision on whether to remand a group of named executives of Standard and Poor and Fitch rating agency accused of manipulating the markets thereby causing the Sovereign Country of Italy financial suffering and cost . Their “crime” was to, in 2011, lower Italy’s rating from A to BBB+.
This move meant Italy had to pay more for borrowing money. Given that in 2011 the EU removed Silvio Berlusconi from power and replaced him with a bureaucrat in response to the worsening debt of the country seems to have been forgotten. These companies downgraded many countries during that period including the UK as we went through the great recession. Only Italian judges have singled out personnel from these companies and prosecuted them.
I am often amazed at the casualness with which some expats approach laws in Italy. Maybe the dolce vita and seemingly nonchalant attitude some Italians have to laws lulls them into a false sense of security . But the powers of Italy’s prosecuting judges petrify me: one should live in daily fear of the knock on the door, because Italy’s terrifying bureaucracy and labyrinthine laws mean that we are all guilty of something — and even if we are not it does not matter.
These judges have the capacity to spy on you at will, they can and do lock people up for months on end while they seek evidence against you for a trial that might never happen but even if it doesn’t you will have been inside and will have had huge costs defending yourself . It it does go to trial in Italy you will have three trials before a judgement is finally made taking years. In the UK you are innocent until proven guilty. In Italy, on the other hand, you are, in reality, guilty until proven innocent.
We all got a good laugh at Silvio Berlusconi and his Bunga Bunga trial until you look more closely at it. Never mind that this is a 76 year old survivor of prostate cancer the basic fact is there was no evidence that would hold sway in most countries as to whether he had sex for money with a minor. In Italy the age of consent is 14 years old but the age of a girl you pay for sex must 18 and Ruby was 17. The only piece of evidence was a text from Ruby to a friend saying she was going to the party that night and was going to have sex with Silvio. (which incidentally would not have been allowed as evidence in the UK)
She said it was a joke text he was 76 for christ sakes. She denied having sex, he denied having sex and there were no witnesses to the act anyway. No one has denied she and 30 others were paid to go to parties . Silvio paid them €3,000 each to attend and drape themselves about the place.
However he was found guilty and sentenced to 6 years in jail and because he was found guilty the girls had therefore committed perjury and all face trial now. As Alessandro Sallusti, the editor of Berlusconi’s daily Il Giornale, said when this was announced, it’s ‘reminiscent, very reminiscent, of those emitted by Stalinist and Nazi tribunals against their adversaries: any witness who dared to raise a finger in defence of the poor defendant of the day in turn was charged with being a worm, condemned as an accomplice and a liar, punished and re-educated. Permit me to say that if I had even the slightest suspicion that il Presidente had molested a woman even once in his life I wouldn’t be here writing these words. We are talking about a gentleman, a bit of a buffoon, but with far more moral integrity than his accusers and judges.’
It is really important to realise when you live here that Italy’s judges are not like Britain’s judges. They are a profession quite separate from solicitors and barristers, and like every organisation in Italy, including the Round Table, are highly politicised. Given that and their awesome powers breaking or avoiding laws in Italy is not for the feint hearted !
The trial won’t be like Monty Python