Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Berlusconi's legal woes mount with indictment request

English
© ANSA

(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, May 9 - Silvio Berlusconi's legal headaches
grew on Thursday when Naples prosecutors said they had requested
the ex-premier be sent to trial over allegations he bribed
former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides.
On Wednesday, a Milan court upheld a four-year conviction
and a five-year ban on serving in public office for Berlusconi
for tax fraud on American film rights bought by his Mediaset TV
empire.
The three-time Italian premier is also on trial in Milan
over accusations he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan
dancer.
He denies any wrongdoing and says this week's developments
are part of a campaign by left-wing magistrates who are
persecuting him for political reasons.
The Neapolitan investigators suspect Berlusconi paid De
Gregorio three million euros to switch sides from the centre
left to the centre right.
Romani Prodi's 2006-2008 government fell after losing the
support of the Senate, leading to new elections that Berlusconi
won.
De Gregorio has admitted to receiving two million euros
from Berlusconi, which he did not declare for tax purposes, but
denied that it was bribe money.
The Naples prosecutors also requested that De Gregorio and
Walter Lavitola, an associate of the ex-premier's and
ex-director of the newspaper L'Avanti!, be indicted.
Valter Lavitola received a two-year, eight-month sentence
in March for attempting to blackmail Berlusconi in exchange for
hushing up payments to escorts at alleged sex parties at the
ex-premier's home.
There has been speculation the new legal problems could
disrupt the delicate balance of Premier Enrico Letta's
unprecedented left-right coalition government, which was formed
last month to end a long deadlock after February's general
election failed to produce a clear winner.
Some thought Berlusconi might pull the support of his
centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party in anger at the
magistrates' actions.
Meanwhile, some political pundits have said parts of
Letta's centre-left Democratic Party may rebel against the PdL's
attacks on the judiciary.
The PdL has said Berlusconi will attend a big protest in
Brescia on Saturday against the treatment he is being dealt by
magistrates.
But both sides on Thursday sought to play down fears
Letta's government will not be dragged into the wrangle.
"Yesterday's ruling in Milan and the request by Naples
prosecutors for Silvio Berlusconi to be indicted are clearly
attacks not just from judicial forces, but political ones too,"
said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior PdL lawmaker.
"The double aim is to hit Berlusconi and to put the balance
of the current government in crisis.
"We aren't going to fall for provocations as regards the
government. The life and future of the government will depend on
its contents concerning economic policies and reforms of the
institutions.
Junior Economy Minister Stefano Fassina of the PD said the
centre left did not want Berlusconi's problems having an impact
on the government either.
"We all intend to keep Silvio Berlusconi's judicial affairs
separate from the activities of the government and of
parliament, with which they must not interfere," Fassina said.
Comedian Beppe Grillo said his anti-establishment 5-Star
Movement would present a vote in parliament for Berlusconi to be
declared ineligible to take part in public life.
"In any democratic country, Berlusconi would be in prison
or would have been removed from any public role while here he
tips the scale," said Grillo, whose movement won around a
quarter of the votes in a near three-way tie in February's
elections.
Berlusconi has faced more than 30 cases since becoming a
politician.
He has never received a definitive conviction at the end of
the appeals process, several times because cases had been timed
out by the statute of limitations, which one of his governments
shortened.
Berlusconi will only have to serve the prison sentence and
the ban on public office in relation to the Mediaset case if the
ruling is upheld by the supreme Court of Cassation.
He is unlikely to actually have to go to prison.
The statute of limitations on the case ends next year and
three of the four years of the sentence do not have to be served
anyway because of an 2006 amnesty law.

© Riproduzione riservata

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