Berlusconi ally resigns to face corruption charges
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Last Updated: Monday, July 05, 2010, 20:10
Rome: A close ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned from his ministerial post on Monday to face corruption charges in an affair that is threatening the stability of the centre-right ruling bloc.

Berlusconi stirred up a political storm two weeks ago when he appointed Aldo Brancher, a former executive at his Fininvest media group, as a minister without portfolio.

The opposition said the appointment was to enable Brancher to exploit rules that allow ministers to delay attending trials in which they are defendants.

Brancher and his wife are accused of illegally receiving more than one million euros between 2001 and 2005 from Banca Popolare Italiana, notably in its takeover attempt of Banca Antonveneta.

Brancher told a court in Milan on Monday that he was resigning to bring about "a rapid resolution to this affair", a decision that was backed by Berlusconi in statement.

His appointment as a minister was severely criticised by the opposition, which in a rare display of unity tabled a no-confidence motion in parliament.

The affair has increased the cracks in Berlusconi's centre-right majority, with powerful parliamentary speaker Gianfranco Fini tacitly threatening to vote with the opposition in the motion.

According to the Italian media, the Brancher affair has the potential to be one strain too far on the ruling bloc, which has been weakened by disagreements between Berlusconi and Fini on a number of issues, most notably Berlusconi's push for a law limiting wiretaps.


First Published: Monday, July 05, 2010, 20:10

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