Home / World / Europe / Gianni De Michelis, Italian Politician Tarnished by Scandal, Dies at 78

Gianni De Michelis, Italian Politician Tarnished by Scandal, Dies at 78

Giovanni De Michelis, a flamboyant Italian Socialist and power broker in Rome who was caught up in Italy’s sweeping corruption scandal of the 1990s, died on Saturday in Venice. He was 78.

He had been ill for some time with a neurodegenerative disease, said Maurizio Sacconi, a friend and a former member of the Italian Socialist Party, who confirmed the death.

Mr. De Michelis, who was known as Gianni, joined the Socialist Party as a university student in 1960 and went on to occupy several cabinet posts, including foreign affairs minister, in Italy’s frequently changing governments. In the late 1980s and early ’90s he was the right-hand man to Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. As foreign minister, Mr. De Michelis signed the Maastricht Treaty, which in 1992 established the European Union, on behalf of Italy.

A colorful politician with long hair who liked to dance the night away in discothèques, Mr. De Michelis was an emblem of Italy’s swagger in the 1980s. He was such a fan of discos that in 1988 he put together an illustrated guide to 250 of Italy’s hottest clubs, called “Where Are We Going to Dance Tonight?”

But by the early ’90s, he had been swept up in the widespread “mani pulite” (clean hands) investigation into political corruption, including bribery, kickbacks and illegal party financing. The investigation implicated hundreds of politicians and business figures and helped bring about the downfall of Italy’s dominant political parties.

Mr. De Michelis received the first formal notification that he was a target of the inquiry in 1992, just before a glittery party was given in his honor by the United States ambassador to Italy, Peter F. Secchia. After that, he was subjected to 35 different legal proceedings.

“I was considered a powerful man,” Mr. De Michelis told The New York Times in 1994. “Now, no more.”

He was eventually charged with violating party financing laws, bribery in return for public works contracts, and misuse of funds destined for foreign aid. The money, court papers said, allowed him to lead a princely lifestyle.

“The parties of De Michelis had become legendary,” the journalist Marco Travaglio wrote in “The Disappearance of the Facts,” a 2006 book about the media and politics in Italy. “In Venice he organized one at the Maritime Station with two thousand guests; in Rome, for a birthday, he rented the entire Tor di Valle racecourse.” In 1993, he added, Mr. De Michelis left an unpaid account of more than $300,000 at the Hotel Plaza in Rome, “where he occupied a suite that cost 370 thousand lire a day just for the ‘extras,’ ” or roughly $230 in 1993 dollars (the equivalent of more than $400 today).

He was convicted of corruption and sentenced to one year and six months for bribetaking and an additional six months for illegal party financing. His sentence was suspended.

Giovanni De Michelis was born on Nov. 26, 1940, in Venice, to Turno and Noemi (Borghello) De Michelis. He graduated with a degree in industrial chemistry from the University of Padua in 1963 and began teaching. By 1980 he had become an associate professor of chemistry at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he taught off and on until 1999, depending on the demands of his political career.

He began that career as a councilor for urban planning in Venice. He was elected to Parliament in 1976 and re-elected periodically through 2006. During that time, he also served as minister in charge of state-owned companies, labor and, from 1989 to 1992, foreign affairs.

He suffered a notable political defeat in 1990 when Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti announced unexpectedly that he had withdrawn Venice as a candidate to host Expo 2000, a four-month celebration planned for the turn of the millennium. While many Venetians and others had dreaded the idea of the Expo, which might have brought 200,000 people a day to the city of 80,000, Mr. De Michelis had campaigned hard for it. (Expo 2000 ended up in Hanover, Germany.)

Opponents accused Mr. De Michelis of using his position improperly to lobby for the project, which was organized by a consortium of major companies headed by his brother Cesare. But Mr. De Michelis defended Expo, saying it was critical for breathing new life into Venice, where high prices and limited housing had forced many residents to leave, reducing the population by more than half over the previous 40 years.

Mr. De Michelis is survived by his wife, Stefania Tucci; a son, Alvise; and a grandson, as well as a sister and two brothers.

In the long run, Mr. De Michelis’s legal troubles did little to inhibit his political career. In 2001, after the dissolution of the Socialist Party, he and Vittorio Craxi, known as Bobo, the son of the former prime minister, founded the New Italian Socialist Party, which supported the center-right government led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. De Michelis was elected to the European Parliament in 2004, but his party later dissolved and he left office in 2009. He then became a sought-after political analyst.


Source link

About admin

World Media News delivers breaking news, headlines and top stories from business, politics, entertainment and more in the US and worldwide

Check Also

‘They Came to Kill.’ Almost 5 Die Daily at Hands of Rio Police.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Shooting from helicopters, armored personnel carriers or at close range, police …

Leave a Reply

Translate »