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Italian court confirms Berlusconi ally guilty in mafia case

Dell’Utri, 71, was accused of playing the middle man between Berlusconi and the criminal association.

File photo of former senator Alberto Ramella.
File photo of former senator Alberto Ramella.
Image: Alberto Ramella/AP

AN ITALIAN COURT court today upheld the conviction of an ex-senator for mediating between former premier Silvio Berlusconi and the Sicilian Mafia in the 1970s.

“I hoped the sentence would go differently, but I accept it,” the former senator Marcello Dell’Utri told reporters after the court in Palermo upheld his seven-year prison sentence.

Dell’Utri, 71, was accused of playing the middle man between the criminal association and billionaire Berlusconi, who the court said paid out large amounts of protection money in the 1970s to prevent attacks on his family.

It was he who introduced Berlusconi in 1973 to gangster Vittorio Mangano, who became the stable man at the media magnate’s villa near Milan but whose real job was allegedly to ward off kidnappers.

“We are satisfied and think justice has been done,” said prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio.

Appeal

Dell’Ultri’s lawyers said they will appeal the ruling. Once they lodge a challenge in the supreme court, a final verdict will have to come by June 2014 or the case will be thrown out and he will not spend any time behind bars.

“It is a possibility (that it will be thrown out), we’ll see. Lawyers carry out the calculations, I wait and see,” Dell’Utri said.

Monday’s ruling topped a legal saga stretching back to 1994, when Dell’Ulri was first investigated on suspicion of collusion with Sicily’s Cosa Nostra.

In 2004, he was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment over links to leaders of the crime group. In 2010, the Palermo court of appeal upheld the conviction, but reduced the sentence to seven years.

In March last year, Italy’s highest appeal court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial on the basis that there was not enough evidence to jail him for his activities between 1977 and 1992.

As part of the new trial, Berlusconi had been questioned as a witness in the case and had denied paying out money to the Mafia.

Middle man

In 2009, mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza accused Dell’Utri of having acted as a middle man between the Cosa Nostra and the political world.

Prosecutors used his testimony to argue that Berlusconi used Dell’Utri to strike a deal with the Mafia, which allegedly launched a terrorist bombing campaign in Italy in 1993 to create panic and make the ex-premier’s new party look like a national saviour when it burst onto the political scene.

Spatuzza’s testimony was later thrown into doubt by a jailed Mafia boss who denied the organisation had links with Berlusconi.

- © AFP 2013.

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