Row over ruling on Berlusconi ally accused of Mafia collusion

Mon, Mar 12, 2012, 00:00

FORMER PRIME minister Silvio Berlusconi clashed yet again with the Italian judiciary yesterday following a ruling by Italy’s highest appeals court.

Last Friday night, the Court of Cassation effectively dismissed the 16-year long case in which Mr Berlusconi’s long-time political ally and business associate, Senator Marcello Dell’Utri, stands accused of Mafia collusion.

In a controversial ruling, the cassation court ordered the appeal case be restarted, with Supreme Court judge Francesco Iacoviello arguing “nobody believes anymore in the crime of Mafia collusion”.

Commentators said the ruling almost certainly means this long-running case will fall victim of the statute of limitations and thus not come to a juridical conclusion. Had the cassation court upheld 2004 and 2010 rulings, condemning Mr Dell’Utri to a seven-year sentence, the senator would have faced immediate arrest.

Responding to the ruling, Mr Berlusconi said the Dell’Utri trial had been “outrageous” and it had meant “16 years of suffering and pillory” for his close associate.

The former chief public prosecutor in Palermo, Sicily – Giancarlo Caselli – however, was critical of Judge Iacoviello, saying his ruling represented an offence to the late Giovanni Falcone, the investigator who instigated the celebrated “ maxi-processo” (supertrial) against the Sicilian Mafia in the late 1980s and who was killed by them in 1992, saying: “Falcone, in the maxi-processo, was the person who developed the concept of external collusion in Mafia activities, a crime absolutely fundamental in the fight against that whole grey area which he highlighted. Without doing this, you never come face to face with those links between the Mafia and politics.”

Current Palermo-based Mafia investigator Nino Di Matteo was also bitterly critical of the’s findings, telling daily La Repubblicathat to say “no one believes in the crime of Mafia collusion anymore” is “very serious and irresponsible”.

He added: “In saying this, you are turning the clock back 30 years and in contradicting the jurisprudence of other courts, you have rendered a whole series of investigations, trials and even convictions illegitimate.”

Commentators said Palermo-born Dell’Utri has had a well-documented, 25-year relationship with the Mafia, recalling that he was the man who in the 1970s engaged the subsequently convicted Mafia killer Vittorio Mangano as a private bodyguard for wealthy industrialist Berlusconi at his private residence outside Milan.