Breakfast with: Caterina Chinnici, Eurodeputy

“Breakfast With” is the brand new section of our blog.

Within this part of our newsletter, we would like to interview influential European leaders from fields including Politics, Economics, Science and Technology.

1 – Dear Mrs. Chinnici, first of all many thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you. As daughter of the Magistrate Rocco Chinnici (brutally assassinated by Mafia in 1983), you and your family know what is the price in being a Civil Servant loyal to the Republic. Do you think that nowadays the Mafia is still powerful such as in 1983? What is changed?


1 – “In my opinion, since then mafia has suffered many serious blows thanks to the work of my father and other great servants of the State. My father’s murder shocked my family, but we took some comfort from the awareness that his commitment was not vain, because he contributed to make Sicily and the whole Italy better places. He was a forerunner of modern anti-mafia. He realized how important sharing information was; he adopted it as his working method, calling Falcone and Borsellino to join, and then built a team that after his death became the well-known anti-mafia pool. He was among the first ones to conduct asset investigations, affirming the principle that gangs were to be hit on the financial aspect. He also used to speak to youth in schools to stimulate a cultural change. Generally speaking, if we look at what was being done in those years and to subsequent developments, unfortunately induced also by many murders, it is clear that thanks to that work, the fight against the mafia has made many steps forward regarding both tools and results. We had a maxi-trial, concluded with convictions for about 2,700 years in prison. The Rognoni-La Torre Law was adopted, introducing the crime of mafia association and asset preventive measures, i.e. freezing and confiscation of criminal organizations’ assets. Coordination mechanisms were established such as the national direction and the national anti-Mafia prosecutor, the contribution of witnesses of justice were regulated, hard prison regime for mafia associates was adopted too. There is a long list of bosses convicted. Now there are many anti-mafia civil society organizations, often led by young people like Addiopizzo. I believe that mafia today is weaker than during the season of the slaughters, but it is hard to say how much weaker. It has certainly changed, putting aside military strategy, trying to infiltrate more and more within the institutions and legal economy, setting his roots even outside Sicily. But for sure we must never let our guard down and, indeed, law enforcement tools at the supranational level must be strengthened, given the cross-border dimension of organized criminal activities”.



2 – What do you think about the law Rognoni – La Torre (Law no. 646 of 1982) – 2011 Legislative Decree no. 159? Does it need to be reviewed?


2 – “The Rognoni-La Torre law has led to a relevant improvement in the fight against organized crime. Both because it allowed to punish the associative link which is the basis of the illegal conduct, and because it gave judges the power to withdraw goods produced or used in illegal activities from criminal organizations. It was a turning point, given that the ultimate purpose of mafia crime is precisely to accumulate as much wealth as possible. Rules are always perfectible and updating them is an ongoing issue, but the provisions of the Rognoni-La Torre Law, then merged into the so called anti-mafia code, still remain a legal pillar for the fight against criminal organizations. There are, however, many suggestions for revising the whole anti-mafia code”.






3 – The Bicameral Committee investigation on the Mafia has called for a review of the anti-mafia code at the meetings on the 21st and 22nd October 2014; how could the standards be improved to be more streamline and clear?


3 – “The need for a revision of legislative Decree 159/2011, the so-called anti-mafia code, has been made manifest shortly after its approval by lawyers, enterprises and civil society. I believe that the aspects to be reviewed are duly considered by the text approved last November by the Chamber of Deputies and then forwarded to the Senate for continuing parliamentary procedure. The text, among other things, provides for: the extension of those who can be reached by measures of prevention as accused of certain crimes and the acceleration of the procedure; it strengthens enlarged seizure; it introduces new cases for confiscation without final conviction; it provides judicial control on companies in case of a real danger of mafia infiltration; it includes provisions aiming to overcome the fragmentation of rules on the administration of assets and to ensure the recovery and the continuity in ruling seized companies. It also provides for a reorganization of the National Agency for confiscated properties, because their reuse for social purposes has always been difficult for many reasons”.




4 – Following 32 years since the law Rognoni – La Torre, the European Parliament has adopted the Directive (EU) 25.2.2014 for the confiscation of property obtained through criminal activity. Will Money laundering abroad and criminal investments suffer a blow with this new law? How should be managed the confiscated properties (equal to around €40 billion only in Italy)?


4 – “In the European Directive 2014/42 we can find several elements coming from Italian experience and legislation. Its approval was certainly a very important step. The introduction of common minimum standards on confiscation, in fact, called on each Member State to harmonize regulation of capital penalties and, consequently, to a broader implementation for the mutual recognition of judicial decisions which is a key element to prevent criminals from taking advantage from the discrepancies between national legal systems. However, it is a starting point, and not a final one. On this issue the EU chose to adopt a progressive approach, because some Member States were concerned about losing their sovereignty, but we need more steps forward. The 2014 Directive adopts a reduced model, not clearly identifying the conditions in which a Member State has to enforce the confiscation order issued by another Member State. Furthermore, it does not allow the confiscation without conviction, except for few residual cases such as the breakout of the accused person. As I have said many times since the beginning of the legislature, this further step, also raised by Italy, would be crucial, and even the LIBE committee of the European Parliament has suggested setting up this mechanism, providing adequate safeguards. I will keep working for that. With regard to the management of confiscated properties, beyond systems’ specificity, there is only one way: goods that are recovered to the community heritage have to be used for the benefit of the community”.





5 – The Organized Criminality is an international issue, but it seems that the International Community does not take it seriously. Some lecturers state that the Italian legislation is the most effective against Mafia. What about Europe? Is it necessary a European public prosecutor?


5 – “The supranational dimension of organized crime is an aspect on that I have always stressed during parliamentary debates. It is true that in some countries, also for historical reasons, this perception is not very strong, but I think that there is growing consciousness in this sense. On the other hand, there is evidence of the involvement of criminal organizations in several cross-border crimes, such as terrorism, migrants smuggling, cybercrime, euro counterfeiting and money laundering. It is a matter of fact that the Italian legislation is at the forefront in this area; it is the logical consequence of having dealt for years with both organized crime and domestic terrorism. The EU is making relevant steps, but still many others have to be made. Starting with a common legal definition of the concept of organized crime, which is still missing. In my opinion, the EU has to enhance the existing tools and strengthen the role of Europol and Eurojust, which should be the main reference points for the cooperation between national authorities. In the future, the European Public Prosecutor, whose necessity I strongly support, will be an additional tool, though its initial competences are planned to be essentially limited to EU frauds. Of course, this is something that is often achieved through organized crime, but a more direct impact on the latter would require extending the European Public Prosecutor’s competence, as envisaged by some proposals on the draft Regulation. I hope that the adoption process will speed up, as I requested to the Slovak Council Presidency during the last hearing in LIBE committee”.





6 – According to “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” there are more than $32 trillion in tax heaven countries and that the cost of corruption is equal to the 3% of Wordl GDP (according to the World Bank). Is it right stating that fight Organized Criminality is a way to boost the economy? Is it really a financial issue?


6 – “Combating illegality in all its forms is certainly a way to boost the economy. Cross-border tax evasion and avoidance are often achieved through so-called tax havens in the context of organized crime or through aggressive tax planning set up by large multinationals. Tax evasion and avoidance cost Member states of the European Union hundred billion of Euros each year as tax losses, which ultimately means fewer resources to provide services to the community. Moreover, this phenomenon also causes serious market competition distortions. Preventing and combating these acts requires full cooperation between states, mainly when it comes to information exchange. For instance, last February the EU signed a bilateral agreement with the Principality of Monaco agreeing that starting from January 2017 EU competent authorities will have access on data on accounts of non-residents and other relevant information. Moreover, in June, the European Parliament gave the green light to a legislative resolution introducing anti-avoidance measures targeted to a fair and effective taxation system. The resolution established parameters to define a blacklist of tax havens and countries, including EU Members, which distort competition by granting favourable fiscal conditions. Corruption is another major serious threat. As Franco Roberti – Italian anti-mafia prosecutor – has recently pointed out, corruption is a crime against the economy as well as against the public administration, and is nowadays an increasingly integrated element in mafia methods. Even on this issue repressive measures must be accompanied by preventive ones, through upstream dynamic controls and through simpler procedures, including less bureaucratic steps and, thereby, shrinking the areas spaces in which corruption can operate. This point is a pillar of the law reforming public administration which I signed in 2011, when I served as a regional councillor in Sicily”.




7 – The Transparency International report on corruption in the public administration (2015), by analysing and reviewing over 168 countries globally, has revealed that Italy has risen from 69th to 61st place. Despite this, Italy scores (44 out of 100) remains very low, following countries such as Lesotho and Senegal. Do you think that is necessary or the reforms of the new Italian Prime Minister Mr. Renzi have not yet shown their effects?


7 – “I am convinced that measures adopted by Renzi’s government will produce tangible, measurable results in the long term. Especially some of them. Among those included in the anti-corruption law approved just over a year ago, I think the increase from 4 to 6 years of the minimum prescribed imprisonment for bribery committed through acts contrary to official duties is particularly relevant. I would also mention the restoration of punishment with prison for false accounting and its ex officio prosecution, or moreover the obligation to fully pay in advance the price or profit obtained through the offense in case which the offender wishes to bargain. I strongly believe in the idea that informed the 2014 reform of the new National Anti-Corruption Authority chaired by my colleague magistrate Raffaele Cantone who was appointed for the mission of preventing corruption, both within public administration and state owned companies. The objective is to supervise contracts, commissions and any kind of act potentially subject to corruption, but at the same time, it is key to build firm partnership with the administrations to prevent bribery episodes from happening. It is clear that there is still much to do, but the Italian government is very committed to keep working in this direction.”




8 – What do you think to ban for all life from the Public Administration and from the Executive and non – Executive Boards of public and private companies the person (both private and public officials) condemned for corruption or Mafia? What about to link to an increase of the penalties, both penal and administrative, the lost to the right to vote or to be candidate as politic?


8 – “Without going into details about the several solutions proposed in your question, I would like to say that a State should always ensure the credibility of public institutions, and this means also ensuring the integrity of those representing them. It is clear, though, that every attempt should be done within the framework of the principles and rights set out in the Constitution. Depending on the case, it is not always easy to find the right balance in terms of legislation and prepare effective rules which are also able to withstand a potential case of constitutionality, as happened with the Severino law in Italy. Nevertheless, I would like to reiterate the principle: within the constitutional framework, a State must be able to ensure the credibility of its institutions, which otherwise might not have the trust of citizens. Excepting specific requirements related to the exercise of public functions, same parameter can also be applied private sector”.




9 – The countries defined such as “tax heavens” will have to exchange information with the other countries thanks to the G20 resolution. However, the corruption seems to be still an unsolved problem and the creation of digital money such as BitCoin can be used for money laundering or tax evasion purposes. What will be the future challenges?


9 – “The virtual currency systems have not reached widespread dissemination yet but there are already more than 600 kind, accounting for a value of over EUR 5 billion. The European Banking Authority, the ECB and the FBI acknowledged that the Bitcoin is suitable for money laundering purposes. However, some analysts consider this risk more theoretical than practical, given the low number of transactions and the publicity of the ledger. The challenge in this case is the development of a well-calibrated regulation. This is also due to some ambiguity inherent to virtual currency, which not coincidentally analysts consider an hybrid product. In the anti-money laundering guidelines, the US describe Bitcoin as property. Japan qualifies Bitcoin as a commodity, Germany as private money. Until now, the EU did not put forward any specific regulation, but many experts believe the current money laundering legislation is sufficient, pointing as a key-factor a harmonized approach between Member States. I believe that it is necessary to define a streamlined legal framework to ensure that transactions comply with high levels of security without compromising innovation and the benefits that citizens could obtain, like for example the reduction of transaction costs and operating costs for payments. This is the reason why I supported with my vote the resolution that the EP plenary approved in May to request the creation of a task force of experts within the European Commission, tasked with the mission to draft a suitable specific discipline to counter risks associated with these new technologies”.




10 – The Fourth Industrial and Information Revolution is changing deeply the society and the economy. It seems that the customers are more socially conscious preferring the companies that make business ethically and ecologically (see the rise of CSR etc.). Thanks to internet, the citizens can have access to a huge quantity of documents controlling more effectively the PA and politics. How much is important the society in fighting the Organized Criminality?


10 – “Very important. It is a legacy left by my father. Back then he was a pioneer in the dialogue with civil society and with young people to spread the culture of legality. The massive rebellion of consciences which began in response to the 1992 Mafia massacres was also the result of what he had been able to teach in the previous years. I strongly believe myself in the role of civil society, that is why I always try to take my time to meet with school children, to talk to them about justice and legality. I am convinced that young people are healthy carriers of legality, as stated in the slogan of ‘Notte bianca’ cerymone that takes place in Rome every year”.




11 – Last but not least, your Directive on juvenile custody was recently approved. Can you tell us how you achieved this result?


11 – “In this law I have been able to use my knowledge as a magistrate in charge of minors and the good practices existing in the Italian model of juvenile justice process. The law, as part of the road map for the functioning of the European area of justice, paved the path to the European fair trials for children, introducing a set of procedural safeguards that all Member states will have to grant to children involved or suspected in criminal proceedings. The Italian experience has shown that a fair trial tailored to the needs of children decreases recidivism rates because it combines the need to ensure accountability with vulnerabilities and specific needs of minors. The principle of the best interest of the child is at the core of the system and the Directive set out important pillars including the mandatory legal assistance – not always provided by national legislations in the Member States – but also child’s right to an individual assessment, specialized training for both judges and others professionals involved in the proceedings, and even the principle of separate detention from adults. I believe that the application of the new rules will contribute to the social reintegration of children who have experienced problems with the law. The text is the result of a broad debate in which both institutional players and social partners contributed with sensitivity and ideas. These actors were definitely useful during preliminary meetings organized by the Parliament in some Member states. During the following trilateral negotiations with the Commission and Council we had the chance to raise several issues, including the mandatory legal assistance, and in the end we approved a law at European level that I believe we should all be proud of and that represents a great act of maturity in legal and human rights”.

Roberto Vacca – Head of Events at ESCP Europe Finance Society

Valeria Sirigu – Freelance Journalist and Law Expert



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