Silvio Berlusconi's links with Italian organised crime confirmed

Former Prime Minister’s involvement with Sicilian mafia is proven as his middle-man to Cosa Nostra arrested

Silvio Berlusconi – Italy’s former Prime Minister and one of the world’s most recognisable politicians – did business with the mafia for nearly two decades.

That is the conclusion of the country’s Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome. The billionaire tycoon, nicknamed the Teflon Don, worked with Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, via his conduit and former senator Marcello Dell’Utri after judges sentenced Dell’Utri to seven years for mafia association.

Three-time premier Berlusconi, 77, has always denied rumours that mob links were behind the large and opaquely sourced investments used to kickstart his construction and media businesses in the 1970s and 1980s.

But Supreme Court judges accepted prosecutor Aurelio Galasso’s claim that “for 18 years, from 1974 to 1992, Marcello Dell’Utri was the guarantor of the agreement between Berlusconi and Cosa Nostra”. The verdict confirms the sentence imposed on 72-year-old Dell’Utri by Palermo’s Court of Appeal in March last year.

“In that period of time we’re talking about a continuous crime,” said Mr Galasso. He said the deal between the mafia and Berlusconi, mediated by Dell’Utri, was formed in 1974 and “was implemented voluntarily and knowingly”.

Berlusconi yesterday attacked “biased” judges. “[The rulings] are what the left has tried to do to me since ‘94,” he told Ansa news agency.

Giuseppe Di Peri, the lawyer for Dell’Utri who has always denied mob links, said his client would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri was sentenced to seven years for mafia association Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri was sentenced to seven years for mafia association (Getty)

Berlusconi’s lawyers made similar noises following the tycoon’s conviction last August for tax fraud, but did not get very far with appeals to the European courts. The confirmation of Berlusconi’s long-suspected link to organised crime comes as he begins nine months of community service for the tax crime.

Berlusconi will not be tried for his links to the mob, however, because the statute of limitations for mafia-related offences kicks in after 20 years. But following a legal war lasting two decades, prosecutors have finally claimed the scalp of Dell’Utri, just before the statute could save him.

Around 40 former mafia members have given evidence that the Palermo-born politician and businessman was Berlusconi’s key emissary with Cosa Nostra. One high-profile informant, Giovanni “The Pig” Brusca, told judges in Palermo in 2010 that Berlusconi poured as much as 600 million old lire a year (£300,000) into Cosa Nostra’s coffers, which was “tied to his business activities in Sicily”.

As far back as 1974, Dell’Utri hired the Cosa Nostra figure Vittorio Mangano to work as the “stable master” in Berlusconi’s Arcore villa. It is widely believed that Mangano’s presence was to deter other criminal groups from kidnapping the mogul’s children, and that Berlusconi chose – or was obliged – to launder millions of pounds of mob money.

The authorities became aware that the gangster Mangano was working at the mogul’s Arcore mansion after the attempted abduction of one of Berlusconi’s dinner guests, an episode that was linked to the mafioso.

Both the mogul and Dell’Utri claimed they had had no idea who Mangano was. Berlusconi said during his 1994 election campaign that he fired Mangano after the bungled kidnapping. But when police arrived almost three weeks later he was still there. He also returned to Berlusconi’s mansion after a month in prison. Five years later, police tapping into Mangano’s phone calls during his stay at a Milan hotel recorded several conversations he had with Dell’Utri.

The telephone surveillance was designed to keep track of Mangano’s activity as the Cosa Nostra’s “bridgehead in the north of Italy”, according to the Palermo prosecutor Paolo Borsellino, who would later be killed by a mafia bomb.

Mangano was suspected of organising heroine shipments and laundering the cash in Milan’s financial community.

Prosecutors later probing Dell’Utri’s connections with Cosa Nostra even found a note in his diary recording how the mobster paid him a visit in Milan in 1993, while he was busy organising Berlusconi’s first general election campaign – this despite it being public knowledge that Mangano had been sent to prison by then magistrate Borsellino for much of the 1980s.

Dell’Utri, who was then head of Berlusconi’s multi-million pound TV advertising empire Publitalia, later went on to become a senator for his Forza Italia party.

Now, following his conviction, Italian authorities will seek Dell’Utri’s extradition from Lebanon, where he fled last month before the Supreme Court ruled on his fate. Interpol agents arrested him in a five-star hotel in Beirut with €30,000 (£24,500) in cash, days after Italian authorities sounded the alarm.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Giuseppe Di Peri, Dell’Utri denied he’d fled justice. Judges in Palermo, however, declared that so much cash and 50 kilos of luggage beside amounted to evidence of a “planned and deliberate desire to flee justice”. 

It was reported that Dell’Utri had been making use of his time abroad to arrange business deals involving the investment of millions of euros of Berlusconi’s money.

The pair appear loyal to each other and are prepared take their shared secrets to the grave. Dell’Utri is also one of the select few non-Berlusconi family members assigned a spot in the tycoon’s elaborate Arcore mausoleum.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones