martedì 14 maggio 2013
Published: May 13, 2013
Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
MILAN — The prosecution of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of paying for sex with an under-age prostitute and then abusing his powers to cover it up concluded on Monday with a call for a six-year jail sentence and a lifetime ban from public office.
In detailed closing arguments that lasted nearly all day, Ilda Boccassini, a prosecutor in the case, said that Mr. Berlusconi was aware that the woman, Karima el-Mahroug, was a minor when he met and subsequently had sex with her.
Ms. Boccassini said Ms. Mahroug, known as Ruby Heart-Stealer, was “part of a system of prostitution organized to satisfy the pleasure of Silvio Berlusconi” at parties held at his villa outside of Milan while he was in office. Documents presented to the court showed that in the three years since the alleged sexual encounter took place, Mr. Berlusconi, 76, a billionaire media executive, gave Ms. Mahroug more than $5.8 million.
Both Mr. Berlusconi and Ms. Mahroug deny that they had sex. He has insisted that nothing untoward ever happened at the parties at his residences.
The court is expected to announce a verdict on June 24. The outcome could affect Italy’s fragile three-week-old government, an uneasy alliance of Italy’s largest center-left party and Mr. Berlusconi’s right-leaning People of Liberty party.
“There will be an impact on the government” in the case of a conviction, “so once again Italy’s future hangs in the balance of Silvio Berlusconi’s judicial matters,” said Marco Damilano, a political commentator for the newspaper L’Espresso.
Another court upheld a tax-fraud conviction against Mr. Berlusconi last week. A decision by government ministers from Mr. Berlusconi’s party to attend a demonstration in Brescia on Saturday protesting the rulings against him severely strained the nascent coalition.
After the demonstration, Prime Minister Gianni Letta warned his center-right allies that he was not prepared to keep the government alive at any cost. Italy’s highest court is expected to rule on the tax case this year.
Defense lawyers in the Mahroug case will deliver their closing arguments on June 3. On Sunday night, Mr. Berlusconi offered his side of the story to the public in a prime-time special broadcast on his flagship television station, Canale 5, that lasted nearly two hours.
In the program, “20 Years of War: Ruby, the Final Act,” Mr. Berlusconi claimed that left-wing magistrates had conspired for nearly two decades to destroy him, subjecting him to 33 separate trials that cost him more than half a billion dollars in legal fees, because they could not defeat him at the polls.
In the program, Ms. Mahroug denied that she had ever been a prostitute. She said that she initially lied about the facts in the case — including pretending to be a niece of former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt — to make herself seem more important. Mr. Berlusconi said that when he tried to get Ms. Mahroug released from prison after she was stopped on accusations of theft, it was because he believed she was related to the Egyptian leader.
domenica 21 aprile 2013
By Guy Dinmore in Rome April 20, 2013
Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s 87-year-old head of state, was elected by parliament for a second term on Saturday as the country’s deadlocked parties begged him to remain in office to break the impasse resulting from inconclusive general elections held two months ago.
Mr Napolitano had previously rejected requests to stand for an unprecedented second term, with his seven-year mandate due to end in mid-May. But Italy’s most respected statesman caved in on Saturday after it became obvious that a deeply divided parliament was incapable of reaching an agreement on his successor after five rounds of voting.
Italian commentators on all sides saw the election of Mr Napolitano as the clearest indictment of the political system, with the centre-left Democratic party in particular a victim of bitter infighting leaving it on the brink of demise. Party leader Pierluigi Bersani handed in his resignation on Friday night after a party revolt led to the defeat of his candidate, former prime minister Romano Prodi, as head of state.
The deal to re-elect Mr Napolitano was struck by the Democrats along with caretaker prime minister Mario Monti, who leads a small centrist party, and Silvio Berlusconi, head of the centre-right People of Liberty.
But Beppe Grillo, the comic activist leading the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, denounced the agreement as a “coup d’état” and set out to drive to Rome from northern Italy to join his supporters already venting their anger outside parliament.
“There are decisive moments in the history of a nation,” he blogged. “Tonight I will be in front of parliament. I will stay there as long as is necessary. There have to be millions of us.”
Riot police sealed off the area around parliament as hundreds of protesters from the Five Star Movement and far-left and extreme right groups started to converge. Leftwing groups were waving red banners and chanting “What’s the solution? Revolution.”
Inside parliament deputies of his movement, the third largest force after winning a quarter of the vote in February’s general elections, voted for Stefano Rodota, a leftwing academic and jurist, as their candidate. The final count at parliament’s sixth attempt to elect a head of state saw Mr Napolitano take 738 votes and Mr Rodota 217.
Renato Brunetta, parliamentary leader of the centre-right, denounced Mr Grillo’s protest as “comic Fascism”, with other politicians making comparisons with the 1922 March on Rome of former dictator Benito Mussolini. Speakers of parliament’s two chambers described Mr Grillo’s “coup” remark as slanderous.
Despite the respect held for Mr Napolitano among many Italians, the manner of his election by the mainstream parties after a closed doors deal is likely to fuel support for the Five Star Movement after riding a wave of popular anger with the political elite and Mr Monti’s austerity policies in the February elections.
Nicholas Spiro, a sovereign risk analyst, said Mr Napolitano’s election was “the clearest indication yet of the utter dysfunctionality of Italian politics . . . the eurozone’s third-largest economy is, to all intents and purposes, ungovernable.”
Mr Napolitano, said by those close to him to be furious with the inability of the country’s politicians to bury their differences and reach agreement on a new government, is expected to relaunch efforts to form a new administration with a limited mandate to reform the electoral law and initiate measures to drag Italy out of its longest postwar recession.
Mr Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party reiterated its willingness to join a “grand coalition”, a solution that Mr Bersani had repeatedly rejected but one the Democrats might now be forced to consider.
Once elections are held, possibly by October, and a new government is formed then Mr Napolitano would be likely to step down, commentators said.
The Democrats now face the task of finding a new leader, with the leftwing reeling from its gravest crisis since the dissolution of the Communist party in 1991. Matteo Renzi, the young reformist mayor of Florence who in recent weeks had been increasingly vocal in his attacks on Mr Bersani, is seen as the leading contender. But his candidacy could also split the party should its more leftist factions decide to break away.
For the moment opinion polls give a lead to Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right. The former three-time prime minister is clearly relishing the prospect of campaigning against his disintegrating rivals, though wary of the momentum behind Mr Grillo who can take the most credit for exacerbating the faultlines within the Democrats.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.
martedì 5 marzo 2013
How Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi threaten the future of Italy and the euro
A SENSE of humour in adversity can be attractive, but it is not always useful. Confronted by the worst recession in their country since the 1930s and the possible implosion of Europe’s single currency, the people of Italy have decided to avoid reality. In this week’s election a quarter of the electorate—a post-war record—did not even bother to show up. Of those who did, almost 30% endorsed Silvio Berlusconi, whose ruinous policies as a clownish prime minister are a main cause of Italy’s economic woes. And a further 25% voted for the Five Star Movement, which is led by a genuine comedian, Beppe Grillo. By contrast, Mario Monti, the reform-minded technocrat who has led Italy for the past 15 months and restored much of its battered credibility, got a measly 10%.