Venerdì, 19 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Berlusconi probed over Senator switch, deposit box seized

English
© ANSA

Rome, February 28 - Italian ex-premier Silvio
Berlusconi is being probed in Naples for suspected corruption
and illegal party funding, judicial sources said Thursday.
The case regards money allegedly paid to Senator Sergio De
Gregorio, who defected from the centre left during Romano
Prodi's 2006-2008 government and eventually joined Berlusconi's
party.
The switch of allegiance helped undermine Prodi's majority
in the upper house and the administration collapsed less than
two years after taking power.
De Gregorio allegedly received three million euros.
A safety deposit box in Berlusconi's name was seized by
Italian police on Thursday and the three-time Italian premier
was summoned to appear before Naples prosecutors on March 5.
The 76-year-old media magnate's People of Freedom (PdL)
party said the move signalled that some prosecutors have resumed
their alleged judicial "persecution" of Berlusconi after a truce
for Sunday-Monday's general election.
Berlusconi's centre right came second in the election, but
managed to prevent Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left alliance
gaining a working majority in the Senate, which his supporters
have hailed as a success as the alliance trailed by double
figures in the polls at the start of the election campaign.
"The comments on our election success have not yet finished
in the newspapers and the attacks by the magistrates against
Silvio Berlusconi have already started again," said Angelino
Alfano, the PdL secretary.
"We announce that we are going to organise a big
demonstration in the streets to defend the sovereignty of the
PdL and of Italian democracy.
"All this is taking place while the country is going
through a highly delicate phase of institutional transition in
which Berlusconi will be called to exercise great influence as
the leader of the PdL.
"This circumstance makes it clear that the magistrates'
actions are political".
Berlusconi is currently on trial in Milan over accusations
he paid for sex with a young Moroccan dancer, Karima El Mahroug,
better known as Ruby the Heart-stealer, before she was 18 during
alleged bunga bunga sex parties at his home.
Both the ex-premier and the woman deny ever having sex. She
said money she received from Berlusconi was given as part of a
gift.
Berlusconi is also accused of abuse of office for allegedly
having used his influence when he was premier to spring El
Mahroug from a Milan police station to hush up the affair after
an unrelated theft claim.
Berlusconi is appealing against a one-year conviction he
was handed last year for tax fraud on film rights for his
Mediaset TV group.
The three-time premier has also been indicted over
accusations he was involved in the publication of an illegally
obtained wiretap.
In the ongoing and several other previous trials,
Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the
victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors
and judges who he says are persecuting him for political
reasons.
Berlusconi has been tried some 30 times but has only been
convicted three times - verdicts that were either timed out or
overturned on appeal - prior to the Mediaset fraud verdict.
"Now that the elections are over and the voters have once
again reiterated their confidence in Berlusconi, the use of the
justice system for political ends has resumed in some
prosecutors' offices," said PdL MP Maurizio Lupi.
Valter Lavitola, a former associate of Berlusconi's, is
also being probed in relation to De Gregorio's switch.
Lavitola and Berlusconi are being probed in a separate
case regarding allegations they induced a witness to lie to
investigators about the alleged sex parties at the former
premier's home.
Earlier on Thursday, prosecutors in the northern city of
Reggio Emilia said they had opened a probe into a letter
Berlusconi sent to millions of Italians about an election pledge
to pay back the IMU property-tax.
Berlusconi was accused of attempting to buy votes with the
pledge by rival politicians, who complained the letter was
deceptive as it looked like an official document informing
people about how to obtain a rebate, rather than an election
pamphlet.
The Reggio Emilia probe was opened after a member of the
public lodged a complaint.
Rome prosecutors are also investigating after a similar
petition.

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