Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Berlusconi says won't go down like Craxi

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, March 13 - Former Italian premier Silvio
Berlusconi has insisted he will not meet the same fate as his
one-time sponsor and personal friend, late premier Bettino
Craxi, who was driven from power by anti-corruption probes and
died in self-imposed exile in Tunisia in 2000.
The media-magnate-turned politician, whose burgeoning TV
empire was shielded by Craxi in the 1980s, accused Milanese
magistrates Wednesday of trying to bring him down as they did
his controversial predecessor.
The Socialist prime minister of Italy from 1983 to 1987,
Craxi was at the centre of the 1992-1994 Mani Pulite (Clean
Hands) anti-corruption investigations carried out by Milan
prosecutors. Fingered as the main culprit as Italy's political
establishment crumbled, he fled to Tunisia to avoid prison in
1994 and died at his Tunisian villa in January 2000.
Berlusconi has for years been saying allegedly leftist
magistrates, mainly in Milan, are hounding him.
But Wednesday's statement was his strongest direct
comparison to his old friend and godfather of his second
daughter Barbara, now an AC Milan director.
''Rumors are rife that people are expressly and shamelessly
talking about an operation Craxi 2'', Berlusconi told
Panorama magazine, part of his media empire, which includes
Italy's three largest commercial TV stations and its biggest
publishing group, Mondadori.
''They couldn't eliminate me by democratic means, that is
through elections, so now they're trying to use the justice
system for political ends. They know I am the real obstacle on
the Left's path".
Berlusconi's defiant statement came as the main
centre-left group, the Democratic Party (PD), for the first time
said they would vote to approve Berlusconi's arrest if a request
with convincing evidence came in from prosecutors.
PD National Coordinator Maurizio Migliavacca told Sky Tg24
that his party would vote to arrest Berlusconi in any of the
court cases currently open against him, if the prosecution
showed the case against him was strong enough.
Berlusconi is under investigation on suspicion of bribing
former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to switch parties in 2006, a
move which destabilized the centre-left government and
contributed to its eventual collapse.
Berlusconi is also appealing a four-year conviction for tax
fraud in the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset
group, and, in his most sensational case to date, is on trial in
Milan for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute,
a Moroccan nightclub dancer whose stage name was Ruby
Heart-stealer.
He is also accused of later abusing his position as premier
by pressuring police to release Ruby when she was detained on an
unrelated theft allegation, saying he wanted to avoid a
diplomatic incident because she was, as he then mistakenly
believed, the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
If convicted on both counts, he faces a total of 15 years
in jail.
In another case, a Milan judge on March 7 sentenced him to
a one-year jail term for involvement in the publication by his
family newspaper Il Giornale of an illegally obtained wiretap
concerning Italian insurance company Unipol's almost-successful
bid to buy Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in 2005.
The wiretap severely embarrassed then centre-left leader
Piero Fassino.
On Wednesday Berlusconi was again defended by his party
secretary, Angelino Alfano, who said judges had waged a "20-year
war" against him.
Tensions between the premier's centre-right People of
Freedom (PdL) party peaked Monday when the PdL staged a
demonstration outside the Ruby trial, stigmatised on Tuesday as
"unprecedented" by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
The PdL launched the demo after judges in the Ruby
trial for a second time sent doctors to verify if an eye problem
for which the premier has been hospitalised justified his not
attending the final stage of the closely watched case.
Judges on Tuesday granted Berlusconi's plea that his
medical condition - the eye infection and high blood pressure
stemming from treatment - constituted a "legitimate impediment"
to his showing up for the trial.
On Wednesday they demanded a new sick note from the
ex-premier's doctors, and adjourned the trial until Monday.
A verdict was initially expected March 18, upping pressure
on the ex-premier in the aftermath of Italy's inconclusive
general election, but that date will now be pushed back, court
sources said.
Berlusconi came narrowly second to the centre left in last
month's election but has been blackballed by both centre-left
leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who faces the tough task of forming a
government, and anti-establishment comedian and activist Beppe
Grillo, whose 5-Star Movement rode a huge shock protest vote to
become the biggest single party in the House and hold the
balance of power in the Senate.
No party has a majority in the upper house and pundits have
widely predicted Democratic Party (PD) leader Bersani's efforts
to woo Grillo supporters to attain a confidence vote will fail.
One scenario sees another election this summer and the
possible replacement of Bersani as PD leader by the much
younger, more media-savvy and centrist mayor of Florence, Matteo
Renzi, who polls say has a wider appeal.
Grillo meanwhile invited Berlusconi to imitate Craxi,
saying this would be better for the health of Italy and the
ex-premier.
"Berlusconi is scared of ending up like Craxi, but in
reality it would be lucky for him," Grillo said on his blog.
"He could escape to Tunisian beaches full of Rubies without
having the daily ball-breaking of the magistrates.
"He should let himself get arrested as soon as possible
without any extenuating circumstances and take flight before the
arrest.
"He will gain in health terms. He will heal from his
uveitis (an irritation and swelling of the uvea, the middle
layer of the eye) and the Italians will finally heal from the
orchitis that he has inflicted on them for 20 years".
Orchitis is an inflammation of the testicles.

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