Press reports, informed commentary, and the recent acquittal of ENI and Royal Dutch Shell despite overwhelming evidence they bribed Nigerian officials provide alarming evidence that Italy’s commitment to curbing foreign bribery is waning.
That commitment was never that strong to begin with. Although bound by the OECD Antibribery Convention to investigate and prosecute foreign bribery cases, in 2011 the OECD Working Group on Bribery found Italy had done little to comply. In the decade since ratifying the convention, only a few dozen cases had been brought, almost all against individuals for small-time bribery, and most had ended in acquittals. This dismal record was not surprising, the Working Group observed, given no one had been trained on how to investigate foreign bribery cases, and no public prosecutor’s office specialized in such cases.
The one bright spot the Working Group found was the Milan office of the public prosecutor. It had aggressively pursued foreign bribery cases, opening by far the lion’s share of cases, including all those where a corporation was involved. Its future is now in doubt.Continue reading