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Police arrest former Berlusconi associate

Allegations of attempted extortion against newspaper editor

20 December, 10:40
Police arrest former Berlusconi associate (ANSA) - Rome, December 20 - Police on Friday arrested former newspaper editor Valter Lavitola on allegations of attempted extortion and bribery on a construction project in Panama. Lavitola is an associate of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and was previously convicted of trying to blackmail Berlusconi.

Last month, Lavitola saw his 2-year, 8-month sentence halved to one year and four months on appeal.

In Friday's documents, prosecutors mention Berlusconi, but add that he was not aware of Lavitola's affairs in this matter.

Lavitola, the former director of Avanti! newspaper, was sentenced in March on charges that he attempted blackmail in exchange for hushing up payments to escorts at the ex-premier's home.

Lavitola was also indicted with Berlusconi in October for allegedly acting as a go-between in the case of Senator Sergio De Gregorio, who confessed to switching political sides after receiving two million euros from the centre-right leader during a centre-left government led by ex-European Commission president Romano Prodi, who beat Berlusconi in two general elections.

Prosecutors have alleged that Lavitola tried to bribe other Senators who have not been identified.

Lavitola returned to Italy last year after a self-imposed exile in Panama, where he reportedly was involved with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and his government in construction contracts.