Berlusconi attacks judges after claim he bribed senators


After a general election that produced a hung parliament and little hope of stable government, Italian politics returned to “normal” yesterday when centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi again attacked the judiciary after reports of his involvement in yet another corruption inquiry.

One week ago, Mr Berlusconi (76) called the judiciary a “cancer”. Yesterday, after allegations he had paid a €3 million bribe to a political opponent in order to bring down the 2006-2008 government of former European Commission president Romano Prodi, the media tycoon reacted in a typically aggressive fashion.

“We will take to the streets because of these accusations, to protest the activity of that part of the judiciary which wants to use the judicial system to eliminate those political adversaries that they were not able to eliminate with a democratic vote … I’ve already said that such behaviour is a sickness in our system, a cancer in our democracy.”

Media reports claimed that, during a Naples-based investigation, ex-senator Sergio De Gregorio had confessed to having accepted a €3 million bribe in 2006 to change party, moving from the Italy of Values (IDV) party of former magistrate Antonio Di Pietro to Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party.

Mr de Gregorio claimed that the senate votes of other smaller parties had been bought by Mr Berlusconi with a view to bringing down the Prodi government which fell in January 2008 when it lost a confidence vote in the Senate.

€5 million bribe

Media reports claim Mr de Gregorio told state prosecutors that Mr Berlusconi had recruited him in a “war” to bring down the Prodi government, empowering him to pay up to €5 million to IDV senator Giuseppe Caforio to persuade him to change party.

Mr Prodi appeared to give weight to the accusations: “I have to be extremely prudent here and use the conditional, but this [investigation] appears to highlight a very dramatic aspect of our democracy – this was a straightforward act of corruption which, if it proves to be true, certainly changed the history of our country … At the time, there were just rumours about this, now there are some ‘heavy’ documents.”

Mr Berlusconi may shortly be found guilty in three court cases in Milan. Judgements are expected in the Mediaset TV rights case, in the Unipol bank tapes case and in the so-called “Rubygate” case where he stands accused of “abuse of office” and “involvement in child prostitution”.

His latest problems make forming a new government all the harder, eliminating any possibility that the biggest party, the PDs, would form a coalition with the second, Mr Berlusconi’s PDL.