Berlusconi daughter criticises media


ONE COULD call it a case of like father, like daughter. For 20 years now, Italian public life has been marked by ongoing tensions between media millionaire and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and investigating magistrates.

Following her brief encounter with Mafia investigators in Palermo, Sicily, earlier this week, it would seem that Mr Berlusconi’s eldest daughter, Marina, fully shares the paternal dislike and distrust of magistrates.

Ms Berlusconi, who is president of the family holding company Fininvest, was summoned by Palermo magistrates within the ambit of an investigation into Mr Berlusconi’s long-time business associate and political ally, Senator Marcello Dell’Utri. Last March, the controversial senator was acquitted on charges of Mafia collusion by the Court of Cassation at the end of a 16-year judicial process which had twice previously seen him condemned to seven years in prison.

Currently, Mr Dell’Utri is fighting another Mafia-related charge, in that magistrates believe he extorted €40 million from Mr Berlusconi in return for his silence on alleged links between Mr Berlusconi and organised crime.

In that context, Ms Berlusconi was called to explain a bank account, jointly held with her father, which magistrates allege was used to pay Mr Dell’Utri.

Ms Berlusconi, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, refused to be interviewed by reporters in Palermo, preferring to express her angry feelings in an open letter in the family paper, Il Giornale.

Claiming she had been humiliated and subjected to a media witch-hunt, Ms Berlusconi complained of the poisonous effect of 20 years of judicial conspiracy theories. She said the whole judicial system had “degenerated” and become a problem which “undermines the fabric of civil society”.

In relation to the contested joint bank account, she did concede that such an account had existed up until seven years ago, adding, however, that she had never used it and had forgotten its existence.

Ms Berlusconi vented her ire on the media treatment of her judicial deposition, complaining that on the evening news bulletins her brief hearing had been juxtaposed with bloodcurdling images of Mafia killings and crimes.

Not everyone was convinced. Writing in yesterday’s La Repubblica, Roberto Saviano, author of the award-winning exposé of the Neapolitan camorra, Gomorrah, argued that the Berlusconi family media organs had regularly been guilty of unjustified mud-slinging.