Italian parliament passes law to legalise Berlusconi's villa

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The Independent Online

The Berlusconi government yesterday pushed through a law that its opponents claim is designed to legitimise grandiose additions made to Mr Berlusconi's summer villa in Sardinia, including a James Bond-style underwater entrance and a pseudo-Greek amphitheatre.

The Berlusconi government yesterday pushed through a law that its opponents claim is designed to legitimise grandiose additions made to Mr Berlusconi's summer villa in Sardinia, including a James Bond-style underwater entrance and a pseudo-Greek amphitheatre.

The improvements to the Prime Minister's Sardinian villa were made in the summer under a cloak of secrecy, which was described as necessary for security. Opposition claims the buildings lacked the necessary permits were rejected.

Tony and Cherie Blair, who stayed at the villa in August, were among the first foreign guests to admire the new works, including the theatre (they enjoyed a concert there) and the swimming pool.

But in mid-September two public prosecutors who visited to check on the legality of the additions were refused entry on the grounds that the new constructions were "state secrets".

Now it appears that the prosecutors will not get another chance. A new amendment to an environment law, passed yesterday, extends the deadline for illegal constructions which may be "sanitised" on payment of a fine up to €50,000 (£34,500). The earlier deadline was May, when construction was in progress. By the new deadline, 30 September, the work was already complete.

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