Berlusconi daughter questioned in blackmail case

PALERMO, Italy Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:21pm EDT

Fininvest President Marina Berlusconi poses before the shareholders meeting at Mondadori headquarters in Segrate, outside Milan, April 21, 2011. REUTERS/Paolo Bona

Fininvest President Marina Berlusconi poses before the shareholders meeting at Mondadori headquarters in Segrate, outside Milan, April 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Paolo Bona

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PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) - Italian magistrates questioned a daughter of Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday as part of an investigation into allegations that the former prime minister was blackmailed by a close aide convicted of association with the mafia.

Marina Berlusconi, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing, met magistrates in Palermo despite objecting to standing as a witness in the case, the Berlusconi family lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said in a statement.

He said that Marina Berlusconi, who is the chairwoman of the family's holding company Fininvest, had spoken to magistrates "as a victim and as a person with knowledge of the facts". He declined to give any more details.

Berlusconi himself was summoned to appear as a witness in the investigation last week but declined to attend on grounds that, as a member of parliament, he had official business elsewhere.

The case is part of an investigation against Marcello Dell'Utri, a senator in Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and a longtime business associate of the billionaire media entrepreneur.

Magistrates believe Dell'Utri, who is appealing against a conviction for mafia association, was paid at least 40 million euros over the past 10 years not to reveal alleged links between Berlusconi and organized crime figures.

He has denied blackmailing his former boss, and Berlusconi has repeatedly accused what he calls politically motivated magistrates of trying to bring him down.

(Reporting By Wladimiro Pantaleone; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

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