Berlusconi denies Mafia

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The Independent Online
ROME - Silvio Berlusconi, the right-wing media magnate, yesterday denied that his Forza Italia political movement and his companies were linked to the Mafia, writes Patricia Clough. He told a rally in Palermo the insinuations were 'absurd' and put about 'because they want at all costs to prevent my victory' in next weekend's elections.

Last week the outgoing Interior Minister, Nicola Mancino, said it was rumoured that Mafia votes, which previously went mainly to the old corrupt Christian Democrats and Socialists, were 'tending' towards Forza Italia.

Newspapers reported yesterday that prosecutors in four cities were investigating suspicions of links between Mr Berlusconi's Fininvest companies and the Sicilian Mafia following allegations by two leading pentiti (supergrasses).

Mr Berlusconi has admitted to magistrates that a man who turned out to be a convicted Mafia criminal was hired as an estate manager but later dismissed.

Italy votes: special report, page 12