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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea