London: Judges have declared that Silvio Berlusconi’s ally was indeed linked to Sicilian mafia and handed over ``enormous sums of money`` to them for protection and the installation of relay stations in Sicily.
Judges in Palermo ruled that man who spearheaded Silvio Berlusconi’s entry into politics paid huge sums of money to Cosa Nostra for protection and later handed over funds to safeguard his network’s relay stations on Sicily.
According to the Guardian, the ruling followed a decision in June to partially uphold the conviction of Marcello Dell`Utri, a senator and the man who in 1993 organised Berlusconi’s first party, Forza Italia.
The three judges wrote that Dell`Utri had also been a "specific channel of communication" between the tycoon and Cosa Nostra.
According to them, he was an intermediary between the mob and Berlusconi. Initial extracts from the document did not make clear whether they considered the future PM to have been a victim or a beneficiary of his relationship with the mafia.
The judges accepted as credible the account of a mafioso turned state’s evidence who testified that Berlusconi had received three Cosa Nostra godfathers at his office in Milan in 1975 to arrange for protection for himself and his family after receiving threats.
But, they added, "between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s … sums of money began to reach the organised crime syndicate from Fininvest [the firm at the heart of Berlusconi’s business empire]" that were no longer just for protection "but also for the installation of TV relay stations on Sicily" at a time when Berlusconi was expanding his TV network.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s party described Dell`Utri`s conviction as unjust, but did not comment on its implications for Berlusconi.
Laura Garavini, chief representative on the parliamentary anti-mafia commission of Italy’s biggest opposition group, the Democratic party, said the judgment offered confirmation of "the very dark shadows hanging over the construction of Silvio Berlusconi’s vast business empire, which was decisive too for the subsequent birth of Forza Italia”.
The Prime Minister has in the past vehemently denied any connivance with organised crime. His supporters have argued that the allegations against him are motivated by mafia fury over the progress made by his government in combating organised crime.