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Paolo Berlusconi in wiretap leak probe

Premier's brother allegedly accepted illegally obtained tape

01 June, 13:11
Paolo Berlusconi in wiretap leak probe (ANSA) - Milan, June 1 - The brother of Premier Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation here for accepting illegally obtained wiretap evidence, the contents of which which he later published in his newspaper Il Giornale, the Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday.

The wiretap in question recorded a conversation in July 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 one of Italy's leading banks, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), and Fassino was recorded as saying "we have a bank!". Paolo Berlusconi, a businessman and chairman of the company which publishes Il Giornale, 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, on December 24, 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 and handed over a copy.

A transcript of the Fassino-Consorte conversation was published December 31 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 against Paolo Berlusconi is based on the assumption that he knew he was illegally obtaining the tape.

Sources at the Milan prosecutors' office said on Tuesday that the premier was not implicated in the probe. According to Corriere della Sera, Paolo Berlusconi is also under investigation for accepting money under false pretenses because he allegedly took some 560,000 euros from Favata, on Raffaelli's behalf, and promised to help RSC win a contract in Romania.

Favata was recently 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.

On Monday a judge turned downed Favata's request to be released on bail.

Berlusconi's government has presented to parliament a bill to clamp down on wiretap leaks and their publication.

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