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Berlusconi's brother indicted over wiretap leak

Case regards ex opposition chief's remarks on takeover bid

03 June, 14:35
Berlusconi's brother indicted over wiretap leak (ANSA) - Rome, June 3 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi's brother Paolo has been indicted for the alleged illegal publication of a wiretap in conservative newspaper Il Giornale.

Paolo Berlusconi, who owns the daily, will stand trial on October 4 for allegedly receiving stolen goods and conspiring to reveal confidential material regarding an opposition politician's remarks on a bid to take over an Italian bank.

In December prosecutors said the premier, who currently faces three corruption proceedings and a trial into allegations he paid to have sex with an underage prostitute, had no case to answer in the matter after he was initially put under investigation.

The wiretap in question recorded a conversation in 2005 between the head of the one-time opposition Democratic Left (DS) party, Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, an association of insurers historically linked to the DS, Italy's former Communist Party.

At the time Unipol came close to taking over the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), one of Italy's leading banks, and Fassino was recorded as saying ''we have a bank!''.

Fassino, now Turin mayor, was widely criticised for the comment, especially among the rank and file of the DS, which has since turned into a slightly larger centre-left group, the Democratic Party.

Paolo Berlusconi was allegedly allowed to hear the tape, before it was even logged in as evidence, by Roberto Raffaelli, the head of the firm Research Control System (RCS) which had been contracted by investigators to make the wiretap.

Several weeks later Raffaelli and a businessman friend, Fabrizio Favata, allegedly went to Silvio Berlusconi's private mansion in Arcore, outside Milan, and played it for the premier and, again, his brother before handing over a copy.

A transcript of the Fassino-Consorte conversation was published several days later in Il Giornale.

Favata is reported to have confirmed to investigators both the encounter in Arcore and the fact that Paolo Berlusconi had heard the tape weeks before at the offices of Il Giornale.

The probe was based on the assumption that the parties knew they were illegally obtaining the tape.

Paolo Berlusconi has also been charged with accepting money under false pretenses because he allegedly took some 560,000 euros from Favata, on Raffaelli's behalf, and promised to help RCS win a contract in Romania.

Judges are considering plea-bargain requests by Raffaelli and another businessman involved in the case, Eugenio Petessi.

Favata has asked to have a fast-track trial after being arrested on extortion charges.

Investigators say he blackmailed Raffaelli for 300,000 euros by threatening to tell the press and police details on how the wiretap was leaked to Il Giornale.

photo: Paolo Berlusconi.

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