Italy's Berlusconi investigated in new corruption case

ROME Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:24pm EST

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi smiles before casting his vote at the polling station in Milan, February 24, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi smiles before casting his vote at the polling station in Milan, February 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

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ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation on suspicion of bribing a senator to change sides in parliament, deepening the legal troubles of one of the key players in the country's post-election deadlock.

Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said the accusation "was without foundation".

The allegations were detailed in a document from prosecutors posted on Thursday on the website of Italy's parliament, which must approve the court's request to search a Berlusconi security deposit box and access his phone records.

The fresh accusations come as parties including Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PDL) struggle to form a government after this week's inconclusive election, which left no one with a majority in parliament.

According to the document, former Senator Sergio De Gregorio told prosecutors Berlusconi paid him 3 million euro ($3.92 million) to switch parties in 2006, a move which destabilized the center-left government and contributed to its eventual collapse.

"I told Berlusconi what I wanted... that the party should give me, either the party or he personally, should pay me 3 million," De Gregorio is quoted telling investigators, adding that he needed the money to get out of financial difficulties.

No comment was immediately available from De Gregorio's lawyer.

The new allegations emerged during a separate corruption probe against De Gregorio, who left the Italy of Values party in September 2006 and was re-elected as a senator, this time for Berlusconi's PDL, in 2008.

In a separate case, prosecutors in Reggio Emilia have opened an investigation into Berlusconi's campaign pledge to return property taxes paid last year if the center-right won the election.

The case was opened after two formal complaints filed by citizens, alleging that the offer constituted vote buying. PDL official Deborah Bergamini said in a statement that the investigation was "an illogical action aimed at intimidating anyone whom magistrates do not like".

In a statement, PDL Party Secretary Angelino Alfano said "the aggression by magistrates against Silvio Berlusconi is beginning again".

He said the party would organize a demonstration "to defend the sovereignty of the People of Freedom and Italian democracy".

In response, the head of the National Magistrates Association said: "We firmly reject the accusations, repeated periodically, that justice is used for political means."

Berlusconi often states that the cases against him are cooked up by "leftist judges" to damage him politically.

Berlusconi is on trial for tax fraud in a case centering on the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset group, for making public the taped contents of a confidential phone call, and for paying for sex with an underage girl.

He has faced up to 30 prosecutions for fraud and corruption over his career, but has never been definitively convicted.

(Writing by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (6)
BobStreb wrote:
In Italy austerity lost, and the bankers attack. In Greece austerity lost, the bankers dumped the man the people elected, and now intend to bring in Blackwater to subdue the will of the people further. Italy, your struggle has just begun.

Feb 28, 2013 9:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
BobStreb wrote:
In Italy austerity lost, and the bankers attack. In Greece austerity lost, the bankers dumped the man the people elected, and now intend to bring in Blackwater to subdue the will of the people further. Italy, your struggle has just begun.

Feb 28, 2013 9:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
FreeFalling wrote:
This is the new Nazi-Soviet-Euro System in the hands of leftist ( magistrates grown under the Communist party dogma ) trying for decades to undermine the only wall against their unstoppable flood in Italian society where clearly 80% of Italians do not want them ( only 20% of Italians voted for the center-left party while 25% didn’t vote and the rest were clearly for other ): they try to cling to power and they resort only and continuously in attacks by the only State body that escapes any type of responsibility and accountability. Unfortunately they also are very good at hooking foreign journalist or correspondents based usually in Rome creating a bias based on a simple fact: demonize the enemy and make you feel an idiot if you are not within the same realm of ideas of these aligned pseudo-journalist and press ( I’m talking about the Italian one ) and of course since they are intellectually superior and try to dominate all of State sponsored events a foreign correspondent easily falls prey to the illusion of a “dolce vita” of these fabricators of mystified truth. The trap is easily set and quite often what we read is really ridiculous and extremely superficial forgetting the training received by years of downstream lesson by the PCUS and their affiliates by these s.c. “journalists” and media not to mention the political parties which instead of proposing and discussing programs for Italy have spent millions if not billions of public money and time just to survive and live with gossip and trying to destroy Berlusconi. Those people are true idiots and deserve like fascism to die politically as soon as possible ( as shown by the elections ). I suggest foreign correspondents dig into the biggest “red” leftist scandal of the Italian banking system : MPS ( Monte Paschi Siena ) a scandalous affair generated and managed by the biggest political scam in Italian history…one that would make even Maddoff pale in the Machiavelli way it has been carried out behind the backs and the pockets of the Italians and the very same employees of the bank. Forget Berlusconi and concentrate on those animals…

Feb 28, 2013 10:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
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