Marcello Dell'Utri, a former senior adviser to Silvio Berlusconi, has been charged by prosecutors in Palermo, Sicily, of seeking to extort the former Italian prime minister for the past decade by threatening to publicize his alleged links to the Mafia.
Dell’Utri has reportedly claimed that in the early 1990s in an effort to shore up support for his Forza Italia party Berlusconi entered into a pact with La Cosa Nostra to guarantee votes in Sicily.
Dell-Utri allegedly served as a middle man between Berlusconi and the gangsters.
The tycoon has repeatedly denied have any kind of links to the mob.
Palermo officials commenced their investigation of Dell’Utri earlier this year after the billionaire Berlusconi paid €21 million for a lakeside property in Lake Como owned by Dell-Utri – a price judged far above its actual value.
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Dell'Utri, who has himself been appealing a 1997 conviction for associating with the mafia, also denied he has been extorting his former boss.
Now they're accusing me of extortion. The only thing I haven't been charged with is pedophilia. I have certainly never blackmailed anyone, least of all my friend Silvio, he said.
Berlusconi, who is reportedly contemplating returning to national politics, has been dogged by accusations of Mafia links for decades – both as a victim or organized crime and as a willing co-conspirator.
In April of this year, Italy's highest appeals court declared that Berlusconi paid out substantial amounts of money to the Mafia to protect himself and his family from kidnapping during the 1970s.
Berlusconi handed over conspicuous sums of money to the Mafia, the supreme Court of Cassation said.
A prominent Sicilian mobster named Vittorio Mangano even lived in Berlusconi's home outside Milan during the mid-1970s, allegedly to “tend the horses.” Critics claim Mangano was there to thwart any kidnapping threats against Berlusconi (Mangano was allegedly recruited by Dell’Utri himself).
The very foundation of his huge media and real estate empire was reportedly financed by organized crime – a charge Berlusconi vehemently has denied.
Massimo Ciancimino, the son of Vito Ciancimino, a Mafia-linked former mayor of Palermo, has claimed the Mafia gave Berlusconi the capital needed to construct a housing development near Milan called ‘Milano II.”