* Former senator says took 3-mln-euro bribe from Berlusconi
* Senator's defection to Berlusconi bloc destabilised gov't
By Massimiliano Di Giorgio
ROME, Feb 28 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
Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said the accusation "was
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
centre-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 destabilised
the centre-left government and contributed to its eventual
"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
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 centre-right won the
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
He said the party would organise 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 centring 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.