ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi proposed changes to the law to crack down on corruption on Tuesday, after dozens of arrests last week uncovered a “Mafia Capitale” criminal network in Rome.
Renzi said he wanted to raise the minimum jail time for corruption, make it easier to confiscate perpetrators’ assets, ensure their spoils were returned, and extend the statute of limitations.
“Those who steal, those who corrupt, will be pursued to the end,” the 39-year-old premier said in a video message. “It’s not enough to be indignant for a few hours.”
Prosecutors in Rome last week arrested 37 people and put dozens of others under investigation, including politicians from the opposition and Renzi’s own Democratic Party (PD) who are suspected of taking kickbacks in return for awarding contracts to businesses run by a criminal gang.
Renzi said he would use a cabinet meeting on Thursday to present plans to raise the minimum prison sentence for corruption to six from four years, to make sure that someone who agrees a plea bargain “does a bit of jail time too”.
In order to relieve prison overcrowding, people sentenced to relatively short jail sentences in Italy often do not actually go to prison.
Renzi has seen his popularity ratings fall steeply in recent months and more political headaches from the Rome scandals which have dominated Italian newspaper headlines for days.
The arrests represent the third high-level scandal this year in Italy, which comes 69th out of 175 countries in watchdog Transparency International’s scale of perceived public sector corruption, way behind all its euro zone peers except Greece.
In May this year, seven businessmen and former politicians were arrested for allegedly rigging contracts for the Milan Expo 2015 world fair, and in June the mayor of Venice resigned over a scandal linked to the construction of the city’s flood barrier.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Ralph Boulton