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.

News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis