Say what you like about Silvio Berlusconi, but he looks after his friends. And the former Prime Minister's associates don't come much closer than Senator Marcello Dell'Utri, who helped to found the Forza Italia political party that carried Mr Berlusconi into office three times.
It has emerged that when Mr Dell'Utri was in a spot of bother this month, with the Supreme Court expected to confirm his seven-year jail sentence for Mafia association, Mr Berlusconi stepped in before the verdict with a remarkably generous offer to buy the Dell'Utri villa on Lake Como for twice its market value.
Italian media have speculated that the €21m (£18m) purchase was to smooth over the effects of seven years of incarceration for Mr Dell'Utri. There is no suggestion the sum offered for the Villa Comalcione breaks any laws. But that has not stopped prosecutors and police from poring over the transaction, with officers present to scrutinise documents presented to the notary.
In the event, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial for technical reasons and Senator Dell'Utri is still a free man, albeit one without the 40-room villa on the shores of Lake Como.
It has been claimed that when Mr Berlusconi entered politics in the early 1990s, Mr Dell'Utri smoothed things over with senior Costa Nostra figures, who would have taken a keen interest in the new Forza Italia party.Reuse content