At the mercy of a self-governing judicial mafia

From Edward Luttwak’s interview with Il Giornale, February 2013. Available; on the paper’s website; a pdf of the original available here;.  Previously quoted in this post. All translation errors are mine.

Title: “Italy? A country where liberty is limited by the omnipotence of the magistrates.”

Subtitle: “A US analyst: ‘Public prosecutors are a self-governing caste that is blackmailing politicians.'”

Q. Why is Italy uncompetitive?

A. Italy is burdened with costs imposed by castes, by mafias and mafiettas, organizations that use extra-economic power to control the economic space. One can truly speak of feudal domains. Let me give an example. If you need a lawyer in Washington, you don’t pay her to bring a civil suit: these lawyers work for a percentage and if they fail, they don’t get a cent. And then there’s the fiscal situation: the Italian parliament has allowed the Monti cabinet to exist and to impose the highest taxes in the world but not to reform the system to pay these taxes.

Q. How to make citizens pay their taxes?

A. It’s essential to have clear rules with unavoidable sanctions. In the US, a great deal of expenses are deductible. However if evasion is proven, it means jail time. These trials are very fast and a most minor fraud can cost several years in prison.

Q. Perhaps it’s relatively “easy” to find oneself behind bars in Italy: 43% of people in jail are in preventive detention.

A. In America, that’s unthinkable. To go prison, you have to be convicted. The idea that the prosecutor’s office can pick you off the street and put you behind bars is unheard of. The problem is who is in prison now: mostly people who have not been convicted, waiting for the trial.

Q. What role are magistrates playing in all this?

A. Those magistrates who, as in the Ruby case, allow more than 200 witness testimonies in the trial, are complicit in a criminal enterprise. Justice delayed for so long is not justice.

Q. What cases does this apply to?

A. I’m thinking of the seismologists from l’Aquila accused of manslaughter, that is for not predicting an earthquake. It’s a sign that the justice system is completely insane. In the place of those seismologists, I would show up in court with a clown’s costume to give it as a present to the magistrates. I’m also thinking of the case of Calogero Mannino, put through the wringer for 18 years until the Cassazione – whose judges are paid twice as much as our Supreme Court judges – absolved him, but now the Palermo prosecutor’s office is bringing charges against him again. This is judicial persecution. Also, the Dell’Utri case falls within the scope of our analysis.

Q. What is the impact of the disruption of justice on the Italian system?

A. The episodes I’ve mentioned invite contempt and ridicule from all the world: it seems unbelievable that Italy’s public funds can be used in such a manner. A justice system that is so slow, inefficient and twisted is a major obstacle to foreign investment. Judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers are all engaged in a conspiracy against justice.

Q. How does it affect the quality of Italian democracy?

A. A democracy has two legs: a very slender one, elections, and a very strong one, rights. In Italy, because of the magistrates’ conduct, there is very little individual liberty. The liberty of the citizenry is at the mercy of a self-governing caste, which is fundamentally anarchic. Judges who delay cases for a year, prosecutors who go after people out of mere dislike. Italy’s magistrates are well below the European level, more in line with their colleagues from Arab countries.

Q. Is it thinkable in America that a sitting member of the parliament be arrested on a non-violent charge and held behind bars for three years? In Italy, as you know, it happened to the honorable Alfonso Papa.

A. I don’t know the case of Alfonso Papa but this seems to fall under the custom of arresting people without strong evidence because there is no responsibility for that. Italian magistrates are not accountable to anyone. [Italian] politics is in thrall to a bunch of prosecutors seeking publicity. In America, a district attorney – if he arrests without evidence – won’t be reelected at the next election. Let me tell you what happened to me in Italy. I was wiretapped in an indirect way. My name ended up in a certain newspaper: it was nothing I would be ashamed of but my privacy was violated, and no prosecutor opened a dossier on the incident. I should tell you that it was a magistrate who violated the secrecy of the office but no one cares.

Q. But in theory, there is the principle that criminal charges are obligatory.

A. It seems that in Italy, the magistrates function like a caste: they protect each other with no regard to justice. In America and Britain, even in Burma, I believe, to reveal an official secret is obstruction of justice, which carries a severe punishment.

Q. Will the Monti cabinet reform the judiciary?

A. I strongly doubt it. The parliament has already blocked less controversial measures.

Q. Why don’t the parliamentary parties go ahead with a reform of the justice system?

A. The state of the justice system is an emergency. If there is no response to this emergency, the obvious reason is that politicians are afraid of acting collectively.

Q. A political class being blackmailed?

A. Exactly.

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