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Italy moves against corruption with 'bribe destroyer' bill

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s government on Thursday moved to prevent people convicted of serious corruption from ever working with the state again with a bill it says will save billions of euros.

FILE PHOTO: Italian Minister of Labor and Industry Luigi Di Maio speaks at the Italian Business Association Confcommercio meeting in Rome, Italy, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The so-called “bribe destroyer” or “spazzacorrotti” bill is a brainchild of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which took office after campaigning against the rampant corruption that has characterized Italian politics in the past.

Five-star has governed in a coalition with the far-right League party since June.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who is also 5-Star leader, told reporters the bill would save the state “billions” of euros. He did not specify how that figure had been calculated.

Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede, also 5-Star member, hailed the bill as a “revolution in the fight against corruption,” after the cabinet approved it.

“This is the first in a series of measures that should make the country competitive again,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

The bill now goes to parliament. The coalition has a majority in both houses, but Italian legislation is often amended by deputies before becoming law.

Under the government’s draft, anyone convicted of corruption and sentenced to more than two years in prison will never be able to hold public office or seek a state contract again, Bonafede said.

Those convicted of corruption crimes carrying sentences of less than two years will be shut out of public business for five to seven years, he said.

The legislation would also allow undercover agents to work on corruption investigations for the first time.

Another component of the bill is that it will require full transparency on private and corporate contributions to political parties and foundations, Di Maio said.

“This will allow us to finally understand why over the years we’ve seen some policy choices made that went against the interests of citizens,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by John Stonestreet