Ex-Italy PM Paid “Millions” In Protection Money To Mafia: Court

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Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had a 20-year pact with the mafia for protection and help with his business interests in exchange for millions of euros in payment, alleged Italian judges in a new judicial report released last week.

The leader of the People of Freedom (PdL) party was implicated in a Palermo court after his long-time associate Marcello Dell’Utri had been convicted recently for his mafia connections.

In a 476-page ruling, the judges of the Palermo Appeals Court described how Dell'Utri, who according to the judges had "a natural predisposition to actively enter into contact with mafiosi", set up a meeting between Berlusconi and senior Cosa Nostra (Sicily mafia) figures Gaetano Cinà and Stefano Bontate in Milan in 1974.

It was at the meeting that the mafia agreed to further Berlusconi's construction and broadcasting businesses in Sicily in exchange for millions.

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Dell'Utri, a native of Palermo and a former senator, also acted as Berlusconi's go-between with the mob until 1992, when the mafia murdered two magistrates investigating mafia crime.

The Palermo judges Dino Lo Forti, Daniela Troja and Mario Conte all said that Dell’Utri’s role as Berlusconi’s go-between was “beyond reasonable doubt” and had been pivotal to “pour millions of euros of Berlusconi’s money into the Mafia’s coffers.”

Leading Mafia writer Attilo Bolzoni said in La Repubblica newspaper, as cited by The Independent: “What we knew for a long time regarding the protagonists in this story, Cosa Nostra bosses on one side and a Milan businessman and three-time prime minister on the other, has now acquired an official stamp.”

Dell'Utri , 73, was sentenced to seven years in prison for Mafia collusion in March this year by the Palermo court. Berlusconi however is still unlikely to be tried for Mafia association because the statute of limitations does not allow prosecution for alleged crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago, unless they carry a life sentence.

Nevertheless, Berlusconi might be expelled from parliament this month, after being found guilty of tax fraud in August. Political pundit James Walston, of the American University of Rome, described the Palermo report as just “another nail in the coffin of Silvio Berlusconi,” as he had also convicted for paying for sex with an under-age girl in June.

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Finally, Berlusconi is also under currently under investigation for allegedly bribing Italian senator Sergio De Gregorio to change parties, which brought about the downfall of Romano Prodi's 2006-2008 centre-left government and paved the way for Berlusconi to return to power.