Rome: Milan court officials defended the impartiality of their judges today after ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi blamed "feminist, communist" magistrates for what he said was a USD 260,000 a day divorce settlement.
Berlusconi made the accusation in an interview yesterday with the La7 private television network, his latest in a series of media appearances ahead of Italy`s February 24-25 elections.
Italian media initially reported that Berlusconi`s divorce from his second wife Veronica Lario would cost him 36 million euros a year. That figure amounts to 3 million euros a month, or about 100,000 euros a day.
But Berlusconi said the figure, with arrears, was double that. While he didn`t fully explain how he got to 200,000 euros a day figure, he said he was ordered to pay Lario 36 million euros a year, with another 72 million euros in arrears.
"These are three women judges, feminists and communists, OK?" he said. "These are the Milan judges who have persecuted me since 1994."
In a joint statement today carried by the ANSA news agency, the president of the Milan tribunal and the head of the appeals court "strongly rejected any insinuation of partiality" of the tribunal`s judges, whom they described as "diligent professionals."
The statement noted that both sides in the divorce have the right to appeal the decision.
Lario filed for divorce in 2009, citing Berlusconi`s fondness for younger women. The 76-year-old billionaire media mogul, who is currently dating someone nearly 50 years his junior, is on trial in Milan accused of paying for sex with an underage Moroccan teen and using his office to cover it up. He and the girl deny the charges.
Berlusconi also was convicted by another Milan judge of tax fraud last year and is appealing that decision.
A ruling in the pay-for-sex case could come before elections next month. Berlusconi has been on a media blitz in recent weeks, seeking to boost his party`s chances.
Polls currently give the lead to the center-left Democratic Party, with Berlusconi`s People of Freedom party and the civic movement of Premier Mario Monti vying for second and third place.