`Berlusconi paid mafia 300,000 pounds a year for protection`

Berlusconi is currently on trial for sex offences and abusing his position.

London: Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi, who is embroiled in several sex scandals, has
reportedly paid the mafia 300,000 pounds a year as protection
money.

The cash was used to keep the premier`s business "in
order", a mobster-turned-informer told a court.

"It was all tied to his business activities in
Sicily," Giovanni Brusca, who is also known as il Porco -- the
Pig, was quoted as saying by the Sun.

54-year-old Brusca, who is testifying amid tight
security in Rome in a case involving two policemen accused of
corruption, told the court some 30 years ago local godfather
Stefano Bontade "invested a lot of money through Berlusconi".
When Bontade was gunned down in 1981, the cash went to
boss-of-bosses Toto Riina, he added.

Brusca went on: "He then stopped paying so we had to
arrange a hit so that he would start to pay again."

He did not go into details -- but it is thought he was
referring to a 1986 bomb attack that damaged Berlusconi`s
villa in Milan.

Brusca, who admits murdering "between 100 and 200
people", turned supergrass after his arrest in 1996.

He was convicted of the 1992 murder of a judge and the
kidnapping of a fellow mobster`s 11-year-old son, who he had
killed and dissolved in acid.

Berlusconi has always denied mob links -- but a stable
manager at his home in the 1970s was later convicted of being
a mafia killer.

Berlusconi, 74, is currently on trial for his alleged
sex offences with a teenage prostitute and abusing his
position.

His trial is due to resume later this month. He denies
any wrongdoing.

PTI

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