Berlusconi's brother faces trial over wire tapping

Silvio Berlusconi's brother is to stand trial accused of illegally publishing a wire-tapped conversation to discredit a leading figure of Italy's left.

Paolo Berlusconi is charged with receiving illegally obtained material and conspiring to reveal confidential information after his right-wing Il Giornale newspaper printed a conversation between the centre-left politician Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, a group of insurers historically linked to Italy's Communist movement.

The recording, made in July 2005, reveals the two discussing Unipol's progress in taking over a major Italian bank, the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) – a prospect that appalled the Italian right. Mr Fassino is said to have exclaimed: "We have a bank", although the takeover bid ultimately failed.

Mr Fassino, who was elected Mayor of Turin last month, was widely criticised after his remarks were printed. He is currently seeking €200,000 (£120,000) for what he claims are the damages to his reputation.

A research organisation RCS, owned by Roberto Raffaelli, was hired to do the wiretap and he is said to have handed the recording over to Paolo Berlusconi on Christmas Eve of 2005 at the Prime Minister's mansion at Arcore, near Milan.

Silvio Berlusconi and another person, Fabrizio Favata – an associate of Paolo Berlusconi and Mr Raffaelli – were present, and all four listened to the tape before it was passed to the newspaper owner, it is claimed.

Paolo Berlusconi has denied the charges and said that his and his family's reputations had been "sullied" by "illogical declarations and conjectures that have no basis in truth". The trial, in a Milan court, will begin in October.

Mr Favata has asked for a fast-track trial after being charged with blackmail. Investigators say he demanded €300,000 from Mr Raffaelli and threatened to go public on how the wiretap was leaked to Il Giornale.

Milan judge Stefania Donadeo will consider on 8 June a request by prosecutors to sentence Mr Favata to two years and eight months in prison and will consider a plea-bargaining request by Mr Raffaelli in exchange for a reduced jail term of one year and eight months for his role in the wiretap.

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