Silvio Berlusconi is an unflappable and defiant politician. He is now facing charges for crimes he has allegedly committed during his three terms as premier of Italy.
Forbes magazine lists him as the 74th richest man in the world with a net worth of $9 billion. He is the third richest man in Italy. He owns assets in television, newspapers, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, insurance and sports. His main business is Mediaset which comprises three national television channels that collectively cover half of the television sector. He own Italy's largest publishing house, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.
But, there are indications that Berlusconi has had close relations with the Sicilian Mafia (the Cosa Nostra). According to the UK's Daily Telegraph, his alleged connection with mafia strengthened when he entered politics in the early 1990s and became Prime Minister for the first time in 1994.
The Daily Telegraph reported that an allegation was made in a Sicilian court by Massimo Ciancimino, the son of a Mafia don. He alleged that the mob gave Berlusconi the capital he needed to build the Milano 2 complex (a huge residential project of about 10,500 apartments) by laundering dirty money.
The Daily Telegraph further reported that, in a maximum security court in Turin in Dec 2009, Gaspare Spatuzza, a mafia pentito (turncoat), made an allegation that Berlusconi had struck a financial deal with Cosa Nostra one year before entering politics and becoming Prime Minister. The paper reported that the astonishing allegation was made by Spatuzza that, in return for political support, Berlusconi had provided support for a spate of deadly bombings by the mafia in 1993.
The Daily Telegraph reported that in 2004, a founding member of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, Marcello Dell'Utri, was convicted of complicity with the mafia and condemned to 9 years in prison. The paper reported that a court of appeal verified the assertions that Dell'Utri arranged for mafia protection for several companies run by Berlusconi.
Cooperation with mafia and terrorist groups are but one facet of Berlusconi's reputation. There are rumours throughout Italy of his tax fraud and bribery of police officers and judges.
The Sunday Times on October 27, 2009 reported that Berlusconi was accused of tax fraud and false accounting relating to the acquisition of TV rights by Mediaset, the television company which he owns. He evaded the court hearings on several occasions - claiming that he was busy with "constitutional duties".
That paper added that Berlusconi had offered $600,000 in bribes to an English tax lawyer, David Mills, to give false testimony on his behalf in corruption trials in the 1990s. David Mills was subsequently sentenced to four years and six months prison while Berlusconi remained free - thanks to the impunity law which Berlusconi had pushed through parliament giving himself immunity from prosecution,.
Last week prosecutors in Malan submitted to the Italian parliament a dossier containing statements, reports and wiretap transcripts which are alleged to depict sordid scenes of Berlusconi's affairs with Italian girls.
However, the Constitutional Court of Italy ruled in October 2009 that the immunity law was invalid.
It can be expected that Silvio Berlusconi, a man who describes himself as the most persecuted person in the world, may finally stand trial.
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