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Naples prosecutors 'open new investigation into Berlusconi'

Probe looking at wider bribery allegations against ex-premier

12 February, 15:12
Naples prosecutors 'open new investigation into Berlusconi' (ANSA) - Rome, February 12 - Prosecutors in Naples have opened a new investigation into allegations of vote-buying against ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, even as his trial continues into allegations of bribing a former Senator to change political parties, according to media reports published Wednesday.

The new allegations are said to relate to a vote of non-confidence vote in Berlusconi's government held on December 14, 2010, which the billionaire media tycoon and three-time premier narrowly won by 314 to 311.

Reports in the Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica newspapers named a group of at least 10 other politicians who were said to have been given money or better positions after supporting Berlusconi. But they are particularly scrutinizing the behavior of five politicians who are suspected of breaking ranks with their political parties to vote in support of Berlusconi, including Catia Polidori, who became secretary for economic development; Maria Grazia Siliquini, appointed to the board of directors of the Italian post office; Giampiero Catone, who became undersecretary of the environment; and Silvano Moffa, president of the House labour committee.

The newspapers also reported that prosecutors are examining another vote held on April 5, 2011 concerning the Ruby case that is still before the courts.

Berlusconi, 77, was convicted last year in the court of first instance for paying for sex with Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, and abusing his office as premier to try to cover it up.

Berlusconi, the charismatic centre-right leader, was ejected from the Senate last year after a definitive conviction for tax fraud at his media group, his first binding conviction in 20 years of judicial battles.

He is also appealing a conviction for involvement in the publication of an illegal wiretap.

The Forza Italia leader says he has been targeted by politically motivated magistrates since he entered politics in 1994. Meanwhile, the trial continued its second day into allegations Berlusconi bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides.

Valter Lavitola, an associate of the ex-premier's, is also on trial for allegedly acting as a go-between as prosecutors have claimed Lavitola also tried to bribe other Senators who have not been identified.

Berlusconi is accused of paying De Gregorio a bribe of three million euros to leave the centre left and join the centre right, helping to undermine the 2006-2008 government of Romano Prodi.

De Gregorio has admitted not declaring to the tax authorities two millions euros he received and plea-bargained a 20-month sentence. Prodi's 2006-2008 government fell after losing the support of the Senate, leading to new elections that Berlusconi won.

De Gregorio has not gone to jail because sentences under two years are automatically suspended.