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A surprise: Berlusconi acquitted in sex case PDF Print E-mail
Jul 19, 2014 at 03:27 PM
ImageWhat a surprise! Yesterday, a Milan appeals court overturned a lower court's conviction of former premier and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and strong-arming court officials into releasing her when she subsequently was arrested for theft. The verdict by a three-judge panel thus canceled the seven-year prison term and the life-time ban on holding political office that the lower court's judges had decided on last year.

Berlusconi reacted to the sentence by saying "justice has been done" and, for the first time ever, speaking well of the Italian judiciary, which he has always considered his primary nemesis and has mercilessly criticized, calling them "communists" and persecuting him for political reasons.

The totally exculpatory sentence was a surprise to one and all, including the Milan prosecutors who tried the case and who will now have to decide whether to continue their accusations by sending the case to the third level of Italian justice, the Court of Cassation. They have said they will wait until the Appeals' Court justices issue their "motivazioni" or judicial reasoning behind their decision.

The Appeals Court judges have three months to publish their "motivazioni" and in the meantime speculation about their reasoning is raging here. However, they clearly appear to have believed the defence when it said, first, that Berlusconi did not know that Karima El Mahroug, the Moroccan young woman otherwise known as Ruby Heart-Stealer, allegedly a participant in the so-called Bunga-Bunga parties, was only 17 when he had sex with her and that he genuinely believed Mahroug was related former Egyptian president Hosni, Mubarak when he attempted to keep her from being sent to a juvenile prison facilities after she was arrested for stealing from another prostitute did not involve any explicit threats to the officials involved.

"The verdict goes beyond our rosiest predictions," said Franco Coppi, one of Berlusconi's defence lawyers. In the several ongoing and previous criminal case, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

Berlusconi, 77, received the news Friday as he was leaving facility for sick, elderly people near Milan for his weekly session of community service in relation to a separate tax-fraud conviction. The media magnate is serving the year remaining on a four-year tax-fraud term by doing community service as Italian law does not contemplate jail-time, except for the most heinous crimes, for people over 70. (The other three years of his sentence were covered by general amnesties.)

Berlusconi said he was moved by the court's decision and said it confirmed his (supposed) belief that "the majority of judges are worthy of admiration". In ongoing and previous criminal cases - he has been investigated and charged with at least ten infractions but the tax fraud case was his first conviction.

The former senator (he was forced to resign that post in the wake of the tax-fraud conviction) said yesterday that his acquittal in the Ruby trial meant he could continue leading his centre-right opposition Forza Italia party with greater "serenity".

However, in reality he cannot rest easy. Currently, he is facing trial in Naples on accusations of having bribed several senators for changing their vote on key parliamentary votes of confidence.

 

Something new: Berlusconi say's he's sorry PDF Print E-mail
Jul 03, 2014 at 10:31 PM

ImageItaly's communist, out-to-get-him magistrates (Berlusconi's words, not mine) once more have treated the media magnate and former prime minister with velvet gloves and forgiven him his (verbal) sins.

This week, the Milan judicial officer in charge of sentencing issued a formal warning to Berlusconi following the latter's sharply critical comments last week regarding Italy's magistrates while testifying at a trial currently underway in Naples . He said the Italian judiciary was "uncontrollable, uncontrolled and irresponsible", words which the official, judge Beatrice Crosti, said were "offensive and insulting". Ms. Crosti is the magistrate overseeing Berlusconi's current sentence that calls for him to to four (paltry) hours of community service every Friday in lieu of house detention. (Berlusconi is serving a one-year sentence for tax fraud. His original sentence was for four years but three were counted as being applied under some recent amnesties).

Berlusconi had also made disparaging remarks against the judiciary during the recent election campaign in which Italy's communist, out-to-get-him magistrates allowed him (incredibly) to participate. The judge reminded him that the decision to remand him to community service was contingent on his not offending the judiciary and made it clear that he was running the risk of having that service rescinded.

Being confined to his home would seriously interfere with Berlusconi's attempt to keep his party a key player in current Italian politics and to remain the arbiter of at least a good part of the attempts at political, judicial and economic reform by the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi

Has Berlusconi gone too far this time? PDF Print E-mail
Jun 21, 2014 at 11:07 PM

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Berlusconi at the Naples courthouse last week.
Has he finally opened his big fat trap once too often? We will see on Monday when Naples prosecutors will decide whether to take action against Silvio Berlusconi for insulting the judiciary during a session of a corruption trial there last week. Berlusconi said the magistrates, who are sitting on a vote-buying trial in which Berluscni is one of the major defendants as "uncontrolled, uncontrollable and irresponsible" and claiming they have "full immunity" and can do whatever they please.

The political leader and media magnate has been insulting the Italian judiciary for years now; his claims that he is a victim of what he terms a communist-leaning judiciary have been repeated so often that everyone stopped counting long ago.

However, this time he may (I hope) have put his foot in it. Berlusconi is currently doing four hours of community service once a week (in a home for Alzheimer's patients) in lieu of house detention for the one-year sentence he received when he was convicted of tax fraud last August 1. This ridiculously mild sentence (set by communist-leaning magistrates?) is totally absurd as it allowed the three-time prime minister to conduct a full election campaign for the May European for his Forza Italia party which by the way only polled 16% of the vote compared to 25% in the February 2013 national elections. But the lenient sentence was contingent on his curbing his tongue when he speaks of the judiciary. And yet, there he went again.

Although he could also be charged with defamation, I'm betting, however, that the magistrates in Naples will give him another pass. It is absolutely astounding how tolerant even Berlusconi's opponents are of him. Last week, two (not one, but two) morning political talk shows featured an extra window in their broadcasts televising a press conference that Berlusconi was, astoundingly, allowed to hold inside the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Wouldn't you think that a convicted felon who has already been kicked out of the Italian Senate and barred from running from office would be denied the right to give a press conference inside one Italy's major institutions? But this, dear readers, is Italy where - let's be frank - anything, and everything, goes.

Eventually,however, he should (should!) get his comeuppance. In the Naples hearing, he is charged with paying several senators a great amount of money to change their vote on a key issue. While in Milan, the tribunal there is gearing up for the appeals trial on charges that he facilitated the prostitution of a minor and abused the power of his office by strngarming a court official into releasing the same prostitute from custody.

Arrivals by sea continue PDF Print E-mail
Jun 16, 2014 at 11:05 PM
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Rescued immigrants arriving in Sicily
An Italian naval ship steamed into the Sicilian port of Palermo yesterday with 767 of the more than 1800 refugees and immigrants rescued at sea on Saturday alone. The operation was part of this country's ongoing controversial Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) rescue program. The human cargo aboard the Etna included the lifeless bodies of ten people, including seven women, who were among the victims of a shipwreck Saturday when a vessel carrying some 90 passengers almost went down. Another 41 are missing.

The government has said it is proud of its role in the sea search-and-rescue operation for migrants which began in October of last year after almost 400 people drowned in shipwrecks off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and has no immediate plans to stop these. But irritation is mounting about the lack of participation by the rest of Europe and on Saturday interior minister Angelino Alfano said something would have to be done. Alfano said so far this year almost 40,000 immigrants have landed on Italian shores and the flow shows no sign of abating. That has almost exceeded the total number for all of 2013.

Italy has been dealing with immigrant invasions from Albania and North Africa and other parts of Africa for almost 20 years now, but the government says that the composition of the travelers has changed drastically in recent months with, at present, almost 80 percent having the requisites to seek asylum rather than illegal job-seekers . Many are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan and most are sailing towards Italy from Libyan shores, something that is difficult to control given the internal chaos of that country. Nevertheless, the government has also come under fire from several opposition parties who believe the rescue operation is encouraging human traffickers to increase illegal crossings.

The biggest problem, of course, is the care and support of the visitors once they have been rescued and Italy simply does not have the resources to do this on its own. Even the United Nations has said that more outside help is needed. And there are also health issues. Many of the newcomers are suffering from malnutrition, scabies, vitamin deficiency and, often, tuberculosis. A recent news report said eight Italian sailors involved in the operation recently tested positive for TB even if they are not sick or likely to become ill.
Unceasing immigrant emergency darkening Italy's shores PDF Print E-mail
May 04, 2014 at 02:52 PM

Image Close to 5,000 immigrants have landed on southern Italian shores this past week alone in an unceasing and growing exodus that is likely to soon prove unmanageable. Since January of this year, something like 25,000 asylum-seekers have been rescued and brought into Italian refugee camps. And recent reports say that some 800.000 people are currently amassed in the failed state of Libya hoping to sail towards Europe, which generally means Italy or, in fewer cases, Spain.

On Friday alone, an Italian navy vessel rescued some 1200 people (including more than two dozen children) brought from North Africa by unscrupulous people-traffickers who abandon them in international waters before escaping to load up with more badly-informed people who think they will find a happy life here.

Since last October, when 400 would-be immigrants drowned off the Italian coast, the Italian government has adopted a controversial (and expensive) policy of rescue operations. The Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue teams are navy ships which transfer the travelers from their unsafe craft and bring them into shore where they are processed and, unless they escape, are moved into overcrowded and not always sanitary "welcome" camps.


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Italian premier Renzi riding high....or so he thinks PDF Print E-mail
Apr 20, 2014 at 09:12 PM

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Premier Matteo Renzi
Italy's brash, young premier, Matteo Renzi, is chanting victory after his left-of-center cabinet on Friday agreed to ratify his promised massive tax cut that would provide a $110 a month bonus for Italian middle class families. The move is designed to show Italians that he can get things done while calling for sacrifices from those "who have always had more" and helping those who have always had less and - perhaps - to guarantee his Democratic Party a good showing in the May 25th elections for the European Parliament.

After 58 days in office, the energy and zeal of the former mayor of Florence are undeniable and impressive. But it is hard to say now whether he will be successful, or even how successful one really wants him to be. I myself have still not forgiven him for the heartless and conniving way in which, at the beginning of the year, he elbowed predecessor Enrico Letta, his party colleague, out of the way although he had promised not to do so. Renzi is the third Italian premier in a row to come to power without having won a national election.


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List of Berlusconi charges and court cases PDF Print E-mail
Mar 20, 2014 at 12:02 AM

Elenco riassuntivo

Procedimenti conclusi

Esito

Procedimenti e capi di imputazione

Sentenze di condanna

Sentenze di non doversi procedere

Prescrizione

Intervenuta amnistia

Sentenze di assoluzione

Il fatto non costituisce più reato

Insussistenza del fatto

Procedimenti archiviati

Procedimenti in corso

Fase processuale

Procedimenti e capi di imputazione

Esito

Primo grado

Condanna a 7 anni

Condanna a 1 anno

Udienza preliminare

 

Fasi preliminari

 
  • Inchiesta Ruby Ter
    corruzione in atti giudiziari in riferimento alle testimonianze rese nel procedimento
    "Ruby" principale
 

 

Will he now be silenced? High court confirms Berlusconi’s two-year interdiction from public office PDF Print E-mail
Mar 19, 2014 at 10:24 PM

ImageLast August 1, almost NINE whole months ago, Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion and fraud and sentenced to four years (reduced to one by a general amnesty regarding certain kinds of crimes) AND to, with what the Italians call a secondary punishment, an interdiction from politics for five years (although this latter was later reduced to two).

Since then, he has been prancing around as if nothing had happened- and most Italians, including journalists, commentators and pundits - have been happily following suit. Now, however, things will have to change. Last night the Corte di Cassazione, the highest Italian court (except for matters concerning the Constitution), confirmed the two-year ban. Furthermore, sometime next month a final decision will be made on whether the former Italian prime minister will serve his sentence in home detention or by performing some sort of socially-useful function. If it is home detention (which I personally, am rooting for), he will not be able to make any public statements or attend any political events unless he receives permission, each time he asks for it, from the Judicial Surveillance Office.

Over the last nine months, therefore, Berlusconi has been able to continue his public role almost as earlier, except for the fact that on the basis of a law barring convicted felons from sitting in Parliament (a law that his lawyers are now challenging in a European court), in November he was expelled from the Italian Senate. Otherwise, a visitor from Mars would have been unable to guess that he had been convicted of a crime. As the leader of Forza Italia, the party he formed in 1994 but which for over a decade had merged with several others, he has been giving speeches and appearing in public, with his doings regularly reported on TV or in the Italian press. Matteo Renzi, Italy's brash new prime minister, helped push this process along in December when, shortly after being elected leader of the Partito Democratico, he angered tens of thousands of supporters by meeting with Berlusconi, the party's long-time enemy, to negotiate an agreement regarding a new electoral law.

A master of propaganda, Berlusconi has succeeded in keeping much of the attention in this country focused on him; last week, even though he surely knew it was a bluff, he announced he would be running for a seat in the European parliament this coming May when those elections are held. Maybe, now, the man will finally be silenced, at least for a while 

 

  

 

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Petty theivery by petty politicians PDF Print E-mail
Jan 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM

ImageA few years ago, people in the U.K. (and not only) were shocked to learn that many British parliamentarians were cheating the taxpayers, primarily by putting in for – and receiving – reimbursements for inappropriate expenditures. I recall being quite startled, having imagined that the average British MP thought of him- or herself as a public servant and was unlikely to behave in an unethical manner. If the Italians did it, I would be much less surprised, I remember thinking.

 Well, now the Italians have done it, or rather, are doing it. Over the last year a series of scandals have erupted, not on a national level, but in many of Italy’s 20 regions, each of which is governed by a parliament and an executive, and to which falls the administration of certain key government sectors, for example health, culture, tourism, economic development and so forth. In regional parliament, the known as the consiglio regionale, elected officials are divided into political groups, each of which receives subsidies from the region to fund its activities and ostensibly to help its consiglieri better perform their duties. Regional councilors are currently under investigation in more than a half the regions, north, south and center included, and the other day, the Italian daily paper, La Stampa, obligingly presented a list of some of the most blatent, embarrassing, and even absurd instances of this kind of misappropriation.

Here are some examples (one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry):

Sardinia. Salvatore Ladu (Democratic Party) received 10,500 euros for the purchase of 30 sheep and one calf.

Piedmont. Robeto Boniperti (FreedomPeoples’ Party), 153€ for gorgonzola cheese.

Lombardy. Carlo Spreafico, one jar of Nutella, 2.50€

Piedmont. Gianfranco Novero (Northern League). Catering expenses of 465€ for grandson’s baptism.

Molise. Gennaro Chiercia (Socialist Party). Supemarket snack, 80€.

Emilia Romagna. Thomas Casadei (Democratic Party), .50€ for admission to a portable toilet.

 

Other items have included luxury pens, underwear, SUVs, televisions, furniture, cat food, books, sweatshirts, Barbie dolls, teddy bears, household appliances, golf clubs, an ivory tusk, ticket to a pole dance show,  dog grooming, paper airplanes shampoo, hair dye and unpaid traffic tickets.

 

At the moment, it is impossible to say what kind of a dent all this nationwide thievery has made in  public coffers but it is likely to be a whole lot. In Liguria alone, the parliamentary leader of the Italy of Values party alone, is currently under investgation for having allowed his handful of colleagues to dissipate something like 70,000€.

I do not want to believe that all the 1,100 regional MPs in Italy are guilty of such misconduct. But there is no doubt that at this point in time only a minority of people in public office think of themselves as public servants, Thirty or forty years ago, Italy’s major problem was that of ideology; most politicians were trapped in this or that mind frame. Today it appears that for many the only point of getting into the public realm is to try and milk it for every euro it is worth.

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