Marcello Dell'Utri

Marcello Dell'Utri
Italian Republic Senator
from Lombardy
Incumbent
Assumed office
May 30, 2001
Member of the
Italian Chamber of Deputies
from Southern Lombardy
In office
May 9, 1996 – May 29, 2001
Personal details
Born September 11, 1941 (1941-09-11) (age 70)
Palermo, Sicily
Political party The People of Freedom
Residence Milan, Lombardy
Occupation Manager

Marcello Dell'Utri (born 11 September 1941 in Palermo, Sicily) is an influential Italian politician and senior advisor to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Currently Senator in the Italian Senate for The People of Freedom political movement, he is also member of the Italian Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe and of the Italian Parliamentary Delegation to the Western European Union (WEO).[1] He is the director of the prestigious Teatro Lirico in Milan.[2]

Dell'Utri is also president of many cultural association and editor of many journals and magazines, namely: Biblioteca di via Senato, l’Erasmo. Trimestrale della civiltà europea, Il Domenicale. He is also president of the cultural association Il Circolo Giovani.[3]

Dell'Utri has been found guilty of tax fraud, false accounting, and complicity in conspiracy with the Sicilian Mafia; the conviction for the last charge is pending appeal. Dell'Utri has been convicted to a total of over 10 years in jail since 1999, but has never served jail time.

Contents

Business and political career

After school in his native city, he went to Milan to study Law at university. After graduation, Dell'Utri went back to Palermo to work at the Cassa di Risparmio di Sicilia (English: Sicilian Savings Bank), but by 1973 he was back in Milan where he began work for Silvio Berlusconi's building firm Edilnord. Late in the 1970s, he went to work at Bresciano Costruzioni, but in 1980 he was called by Berlusconi and worked for Publitalia '80, the advertising sales wing of Fininvest's television division, first as a manager and later as the company's chairman and chief executive.

In 1994 he was one of the founders of Forza Italia, and in 1995 he left Publitalia 80. In 1996 he was elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies (lower house of the Italian Parliament). In 1999 he was elected to the European Parliament. In 2001 he was elected as a senator in the Italian Senate. He was re-elected in 2006 [1] and 2008.[4]

Collusion with the Mafia

In 1973, Dell’Utri introduced Vittorio Mangano, already charged for Mafia crimes, to Silvio Berlusconi, as a gardener and stable man at the Villa San Martino owned by Berlusconi in Arcore, a small town near Milan. Mangano's real job is alleged to have been to deter kidnappers from targeting the tycoon's children.[5][6]

In 1996, the Mafia pentito (turncoat) Salvatore Cancemi declared that Berlusconi and Dell'Utri were in direct contact with Mafia boss Totò Riina. The alleged contacts, according to Cancemi, were to lead to legislation favourable to Cosa Nostra, in particular the harsh 41-bis prison regime. The underlying premise was that Cosa Nostra would support Berlusconi's Forza Italia party in return for political favours.[7] After a two-year investigation, magistrates closed the inquiry without charges. They did not find evidence to corroborate Cancemi’s allegations. Similarly, a two-year investigation, also launched on evidence from Cancemi, into Berlusconi’s alleged association with the Mafia was closed in 1996.[5][8] Cancemi disclosed that Fininvest, through Marcello Dell'Utri and mafioso Vittorio Mangano, had paid Cosa Nostra 200 million lire (100 000 euro) annually.[7]

According to yet another mafia turncoat, Antonino Giuffrè – arrested on April 16, 2002 – the Mafia turned to Berlusconi's Forza Italia party to look after the Mafia's interests, after the decline in the early 1990s of the ruling Christian Democrat party (DC - Democrazia Cristiana) — whose leaders in Sicily looked after the Mafia's interests in Rome. The Mafia’s fall out with the Christian Democrats became clear when the DC strong man in Sicily, Salvo Lima, was killed in March, 1992. "The Lima murder marked the end of an era," Giuffrè told the court. "A new era opened with a new political force on the horizon which provided the guarantees that the Christian Democrats were no longer able to deliver. To be clear, that party was Forza Italia."[9] If true, the allegations might explain the Berlusconi coalition's clean sweep of Sicily's 61 Parliament seats in the 2001 elections.[10]

Dell'Utri was the go-between on a range of legislative efforts to ease pressure on mafiosi in exchange for electoral support, according to Giuffrè. "Dell'Utri was very close to Cosa Nostra and a very good contact point for Berlusconi," he said.[11] Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano told Giuffrè that they "were in good hands" with Dell'Utri, who was a "serious and trustworthy person".[10] Dell'Utri's lawyer, Enrico Trantino, dismissed Giuffrè’s allegations as an "anthology of hearsay". He said Giuffrè had perpetuated the trend that every new turncoat would attack Dell'Utri and the former Christian Democrat prime minister Giulio Andreotti in order to earn money and judicial privileges.[12]

In December 2004, he was convicted in first instance for complicity in conspiracy with the Mafia (Italian: concorso in associazione mafiosa) and sentenced to 9 years in 2004.[13][14] Dell'Utri provided "a concrete, voluntary, conscious, specific and precious contribution to the illicit goals of Cosa Nostra, both economically and politically", according to the motivation of the sentence. The judges describe him as a bridge enabling Cosa Nostra "to come in contact with important economic and financial circles." Dell'Utri described the judges' deposition as "an uncritical endorsement of the arguments of the prosecution ... 1,800 uselessly repetitive pages."[15] The appeals trial began in 2006.

More legal problems

In 1999 the Corte di Cassazione (the highest judicial court in Italy) had already sentenced him to 2 years and 3 months for tax fraud and false accounting. Despite this, during the same year, he was elected as a MEP, and in 2001 he was appointed to the Italian Senate. Indeed, the Italian legal system allows the statute of limitations to continue to run during the course of legal trial. Thus, nullifying the fact of the pending charge.

His case became even more complicated when a transcript of a tapped phone conversation became public in April 2006. The conversation was between the fugitive Vito Roberto Palazzolo – a notorious Mafia "banker" linked to Bernardo Provenzano – and his sister in Milan. Palazzolo, convicted in Switzerland for laundering drug money, absconded to South Africa in 1986. Italy was seeking his extradition from South Africa. In the tapped phone conversation Palazzolo urged his sister to pressure Dell’Utri to disrupt the extradition attempts and offering to cut him in on construction deals in Angola. "Don't worry, you don't have to convert him, he's already been converted," Palazzolo said, implying that Dell’Utri was a link to the Mafia.[16][17]

On May 15, 2007, the Appeal Court in Milan sentenced Dell'Utri and Mafia boss Vincenzo Virga to two years each for attempted extortion of Trapani Basket Ball team by Publitalia, the Fininvest concessionaire.[18] Four years later, the Appeal Court in Milan nullified the sentence and absolved Dell'Utri and Virga because there is no substance to the fact.[19]

Appeal

In October 2009, Gaspare Spatuzza, a Mafioso turned pentito in 2008, confirmed Giuffrè statements. Spatuzza testified that his boss Giuseppe Graviano had told him in 1994 that future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was bargaining with the Mafia, concerning a political-electoral agreement between Cosa Nostra and Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia. Spatuzza said Graviano disclosed the information to him during a conversation in a bar Graviano owned in the upscale Via Veneto district of the Italian capital Rome. Dell'Utri was the intermediary, according to Spatuzza. Dell'Utri has dismissed Spatuzza's allegations as "nonsense".[20]

Spatuzza's allegations were included in the prosecution of Dell’Utri’s Mafia collusion appeal and Spatuzza repeated his allegations at the Appeal Trial.[21] Prosecutors argued that the Mafia spread panic with a campaign of terrorist bombings in mainland Italy in 1993 so that Forza Italia could step onto the political stage in the guise of national saviour. The bombings stopped after Berlusconi first won power in 1994.[22]

On June 29, 2010, the Palermo Court of Appeals reduced the 2004 nine-year sentence for collusion with the Mafia to seven years. In reviewing the previous sentence, the appeals court said the conviction stood only for acts committed by Dell'Utri prior to 1992, while he was acquitted for charges after that year. The prosecution had asked that the sentence be increased to 11 years.[23] The judges took six days to consider their decision, an extraordinary long time for deliberations. The verdict effectively cleared Dell’Utri and Italian prime minister Berlusconi over allegations his entry into politics was backed by Cosa Nostra and a terrorist bombing campaign.[22] However, Prosecuting Offices in other Italian cities are looking into these allegations.

After the Appeals court ruling, Dell'Utri expressed his admiration for the late Vittorio Mangano, a convicted Mafioso who up to his death in prison denied that any link existed between Cosa Nostra and Dell'Utri and Berlusconi. "He was a sick inmate who was asked to testify against me and Berlusconi and always refused to do so. If he had, anything he would have said would have been believed. But he preferred to stay in prison, and die there, rather than to make unjust accusations," Dell'Utri said. "He was my hero. I don't know if I could have resisted as much as he did."[23]

References

  1. ^ a b Italian Senate Official Web Site, Italian Senate, June 02, 2006
  2. ^ (Italian) Sgarbi boccia Dell' Utri: troppo targato, Corriere della Sera, January 30, 2007
  3. ^ IV Convegno Nazionale de "Il Circolo Giovani", Radio radicale, November 26, 2006
  4. ^ Italian Senate Official Web Site Italian Senate, April 29, 2008
  5. ^ a b An Italian Story, The Economist, April 26, 2001
  6. ^ Berlusconi accused of Mafia links, BBC news, 8 January 2003
  7. ^ a b Berlusconi friend on trial for 'aiding Mafia', The Guardian, May 10, 2001
  8. ^ Accusa e difesa del senatore "M"; Una vicenda lunga dieci anni, La Repubblica, December 11, 2004
  9. ^ Berlusconi aide 'struck deal with mafia', The Guardian, January 8, 2003
  10. ^ a b Who Are You Going To Believe?, Time Magazine, January 12, 2003
  11. ^ Mafia supergrass fingers Berlusconi by Philip Willan, The Observer, January 12, 2003
  12. ^ Berlusconi implicated in deal with godfathers, The Guardian, December 5, 2002
  13. ^ (Italian) Accusa e difesa del senatore "M"; Una vicenda lunga dieci anni, La Repubblica, December 11, 2004
  14. ^ Berlusconi's top ally jailed for Mafia link, The Observer, December 12, 2004
  15. ^ Aide close to Berlusconi helped the Sicilian Mafia, judges find, The Independent, July 15, 2005
  16. ^ (Italian) Mafia, nuove intercettazioni contro Dell' Utri, La Repubblica, April 26, 2006
  17. ^ Berlusconi loyalist was 'solid ally of the Mafia' cause, The Independent, April 27, 2006
  18. ^ Marco Travaglio in Beppe Grillo’s Blog
  19. ^ (Italian) Tentata estorsione, Dell'Utri assolto, La Repubblica, May 20, 2011
  20. ^ Lawyer rejects turncoat's claims linking Berlusconi to mafia, Adnkronos International, October 23, 2009
  21. ^ Mafia witness 'boasted of links to Silvio Berlusconi', BBC News, December 4, 2009
  22. ^ a b Silvio Berlusconi ally had no Mafia links after 1992, court rules, The Guardian, June 29, 2010
  23. ^ a b Dell'Utri's Mafia sentence reduced, ANSA, June 29, 2010

External links

Assembly seats
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of the Italian Senate
Legislatures
XIV, XV, XVI

2001 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
Legislatures
XIII

1996 – 2001
Succeeded by
Title jointly held

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