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Panama denies Lavitola corruption allegations

Berlusconi aide suspected of illegal prison contracts, bribes

24 April, 15:50
Panama denies Lavitola corruption allegations (ANSA) - Rome, April 24 - Panamanian Security Minister Jose' Raul Mulino on Tuesday denied allegations that his government engaged in corrupt contracts with Berlusconi associate Valter Lavitola.

"There was no corruption," he said in Rome, "neither with contracts nor with prison construction. And there was not any involvement or criminal intent on the part of our officials". Lavitola, who returned to Italy last week after living for over six months in South America as a fugitive of Italian justice, is being investigated for alleged corruption with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and his government regarding contracts for the construction of prisons in the Central American country.

"Lavitola was brought to Panama by Silvio Berlusconi," said Mulino. "This is how things are done in such instances.

President Martinelli treated him with respect given he was the premier's envoy". The security minister also denied accusations that Lavitola, acting as an alleged middleman for Italian defense giant Fineccanica, "could have offered bribes or a helicopter, as it's been said, as a gift to Martinelli". Lavitola, the former editor of daily newspaper L'Avanti!, is under multiple investigations.

Prosecutors say he bribed a witness to lie about Berlusconi's alleged 'bunga bunga' sex parties.

He is also suspected of criminal association related to the use of Italian public funds for the media along with several other people, including Sergio De Gregorio, a Senator with Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party.

photo: Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli