Italian court upholds sentence of key Berlusconi ally

Italy`s top court on Friday confirmed a seven-year sentence against a key political ally of Silvio Berlusconi accused of serving as a mediator between Italy`s former prime minister and the Sicilian Mafia.

Rome: Italy`s top court on Friday confirmed a seven-year sentence against a key political ally of Silvio Berlusconi accused of serving as a mediator between Italy`s former prime minister and the Sicilian Mafia.

Marcello Dell`Utri was arrested in Lebanon last month after police in Italy issued a warrant for his arrest saying he was a possible flight risk.

The high court decision against Dell`Utri concludes a legal case that has lasted for more than two decades.

The 72-year-old led the advertising arm of Berlusconi`s media business empire, and helped his political debut with the foundation of the Forza Italia (Go Italy) party in the early 1990s.

Prosecuters allege that Dell`Utri used his mafia connections to buy protection for Berlusconi as the media magnate rose to political prominence.
On Friday Berlusconi himself began community service for tax fraud. marking a spectacular fall from grace after years of narrowly avoiding being caught out by the law.

The legal demise of both the ex-premier and Dell`Utri is seen as part of a slow-moving disintegration of Berlusconi as a political force, with his Forza Italia party divided by bickering and legal trouble.

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