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Dell'Utri's Mafia sentence reduced

Berlusconi aide only guilty of charges prior to 1992

29 June, 13:31
Dell'Utri's Mafia sentence reduced (ANSA) - Palermo, June 29 - An appeals court here on Tuesday reduced a nine-year sentence to seven years against a close aide to Premier Silvio Berlusconi for collusion with the Mafia.

In revising the previous sentence, the appeals court said the conviction stood only for acts committed by Senator Marcello 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.

Speaking after the ruling, Dell'Utri said "I am satisfied but also somewhat surprised, because the court did not have the courage to draw the final curtain on this absurd affair which has changed my life".

In regard to the case going to the supreme Court of Cassation for a final review, the senator for Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party said "I hope when it gets there the justices will say: 'What's going on here? Throw this case out". Both the defense and prosecution can appeal to the Court of Cassation but since Tuesday's ruling referred to incidents before 1992 there is a likelihood that the statute of limitations will be applied in Dell'Utri's favor.

Dell'Utri described the appeals court ruling as "Pontius Pilate-like" and said he had expected something like this. "They had to give a little something to keep the prosecution happy because for the defense excluding everything after 1992 was cause for great satisfaction," he explained.

According to the PdL senator, while it was "right to probe the period of 1992 and after, it should be done in the proper direction and not involving people who have nothing to do with anything".

"This sentence brings a curtain down on the alleged negotiations between the State and the Mafia during the period of the attacks against the State," Dell'Utri's lawyer Nino Mormino said in reference to the killing of anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992 and a number of bomb attacks in Rome and Florence.

"The testimony given by (Cosa Nostra supergrass Gaspare) Spatuzza was clearly not taken into consideration the way the prosecution had wanted," he added.

According to testimony by Spatuzza, Dell'Utri was a go-between in negotiations between the State and the Mafia during the period of the killing of the two magistrates.

"While we cannot be totally satisfied with a sentence of seven years, at least the 'political' aspect of the accusations have been dropped," another of Dell'Utri's lawyers, Giuseppe Di Pieri said.

The appeals trial began in 2006 and was drawing to a close when in September 2009 Massimo Ciancimino, the son of former Palermo mayor Vito Ciancimino, spoke out about alleged negotiations between the State and the Mafia.

Although Ciancimino's testimony was not considered relevant in the Dell'Utri trial, in December the court heard Spatuzza who said that Giuseppe Graviano, a powerful boss convicted of a string of bombings in 1993, had confided to him that Berlusconi and Dell'Utri helped Cosa Nostra.

The former mafioso alleged that during a meeting at a Rome bar in 1994, Gravina told him that Berlusconi and Dell'Utri were "serious people" who had given the Mafia a hand.

Berlusconi and Dell'Utri have always denied any links with the Mafia.

DELL'UTRI FIRST LINKED TO COSA NOSTRA IN 1994.

Dell'Utri is a long-time friend and advisor to Berlusconi who ran the advertising arm of his Fininvest company, Publitalia, until 1994, when he orchestrated the creation of the premier's first party Forza Italia. He was first linked to Cosa Nostra in 1994, just a few weeks after Berlusconi announced he was entering politics, by a mafioso-turned-state's witness, Salvatore Cancemi.

In 1997 he was formally charged of collusion with organised crime and after a seven-year trial, during which a turncoat claimed Dell'Utri and Berlusconi "put Italy in our hands", he was convicted and given a nine-year sentence in 2004.

During a press conference 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 refused to admit that any link existed between Cosa Nostra and both the senator 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," he added. In 1973 Dell'Utri introduced Mangano, a middle-ranking Mafia boss, to Berlusconi who gave him a job as a stable manager at his villa outside Milan, despite the fact that he allegedly knew nothing about horses. Some magistrates believe that his real job was to protect Berlusconi and his family and to act as a go-between with the Mafia's then top dog Stefano Bontade.

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