Italy: Prosecutors to quiz Berlusconi in extortion probe
last update: September 05, 13:11
Rome, 5 Sept. (AKI) - Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was on Wednesday due to be questioned in Rome by prosecutors over claims that one of his former top aides extorted 40 million euros from him.
Berlusconi will be quizzed by Palermo's chief prosecutor over the allegations that conservative Sicilian senator Marcello Dell'Utri extorted the money from Berlusconi over a period of 12 years, some of it in the form of 'interest-free loans'.
Among the transactions being probed by prosecutors is the purchase by Berlusconi of a luxury villa on Lake Como for Dell'Utri for 21 million euros.
The billionaire media magnate and three-times premier Berlusconi agreed to be questioned in Rome without his lawyer after weeks of negotiations with the Palermo public prosecutor's office and three postponements.
His daughter Marina Berlusconi, who is chairwoman of the Berlusconi family's Fininvest media company and the publishing house Arnoldo Mondadori, was in July quizzed by prosecutors as a witness in the probe.
Dell'Utri is set to have a retrial after receiving a seven-year jail sentence for abetting the mafia.
Italy's top appeals court, the Court of Cassation in March ordered the retrial, saying he had not received a fair trial.
But in its explanation of the decision, the court said there was evidence that Dell'Utri had acted as intermediary with the mafia for Berlusconi, handing it "substantial sums" of so-called protection money.
He co-founded with Berlusconi the Forza Italia party in 1993, which later merged with the far-right National Alliance to become the People of Freedom.
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