Berlusconi 'cut deal with Mafia', court told

Former hitman claims Italian PM gave 'benefits' to the Mob for political support

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, made a deal with the Sicilian Mafia in the early 1990s that put the country "in the hands" of the Mob, a court in Turin was told yesterday.

Gaspare Spatuzza, a jailed Mafia hitman turned witness, told a packed and heavily guarded bunker courtroom that his Cosa Nostra Godfather boss had cut a deal with Mr Berlusconi in 1993 that provided unspecified "benefits" to the Mafia in exchange for political support. The media tycoon entered politics a few months later and won his first term as Prime Minister in 1994.

Spatuzza said his boss, Giuseppe Graviano, who was jailed over Mafia bomb attacks in Rome, Milan and Florence, had told him that the Mob had "got everything" with the help of Mr Berlusconi, adding that Graviano called Mr Berlusconi "the man from Channel 5", in reference to his TV network.

The damaging claims came at the appeal hearing of Marcello Dell'Utri, a key Berlusconi associate and senator, who is challenging his nine-year jail sentence for links with the Mafia.

Spatuzza, in prison for several murders, testified: "Graviano told me the name of Berlusconi and said that thanks to him and the man from our home town [an apparent reference to Dell' Utri] we have the country in our hands."

Mr Berlusconi has denounced the claims of Spatuzza as "vile", and "unfounded and defamatory", denying ever having links with the Mafia. The Prime Minister's spokesman said the testimony yesterday was the Mafia's "completely logical" revenge against the Prime Minister for his "determined" fight against organised crime.

Dell'Utri told the court that neither he nor Mr Berlusconi had Mafia connections. "It's in the interest of the Mafia to force the collapse of the Berlusconi government because this government has done the most in the fight against organised crime," he said. Mr Berlusconi, who recently lost his legal immunity to prosecution, was said to have been furious this week, after the parliamentary Speaker, Gianfranco Fini, the man who is supposed to be his closest ally, had said that the Spatuzza evidence was "an atomic bomb".

Mr Fini was recorded by an unobserved microphone while talking privately at an official dinner. Rumours of the conservative Prime Minister's links with the Mob have persisted since investigators learnt that a Cosa Nostra hitman, Vittorio Mangano, worked as Mr Berlusconi's "stable-master" at the media mogul's villa in Arcore outside Milan in the 1970s. Much speculation has also centred on the origins of Mr Berlusconi's vast wealth.

Last week, the Prime Minister's broadcast group, Mediaset, and his holding company, Fininvest, announced it intended to sue the left-wing newspaper La Repubblica over an article that said Mediaset was "20 per cent owned by the Mafia".

La Stampa newspaper noted that the "dread combination of Mafia allegations and separation from his wife are now his principal torments". Mr Berlusconi's estranged wife, Veronica Lario, is said to be seeking a £3m-a-month divorce settlement, and a messy courtroom battle looms. Mr Berlusconi also faces a retrial on the charge that he bribed the British lawyer David Mills to lie in court.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick