Italy: Lawyer rejects turncoat's claims linking Berlusconi to mafia

Rome, 23 October (AKI) - Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's lawyer has strongly rejected on Friday, claims by mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza who quoted a former mafia boss as saying he had links to the premier.

"The statements given by Spatuzza about prime minister Berlusconi are baseless and can be in no way verified," said the premier's lawyer and MP for the ruling People of Freedom party (PdL) Niccolo Ghedini on Friday.

He was referring to claims by Spatuzza that jailed Sicilian mafia boss Giuseppe Graviano told him in 1994 that Berlusconi was helping the mafia. Spatuzza said Graviano disclosed the information to him during a conversation in a bar Graviano owned in the upscale Via Veneto district of the Italian capital Rome.

"I met Giuseppe Graviano inside a bar in Via Veneto. Graviano was very happy and said that we had obtained everything and that these people were not like those four bastard Socialists," Spatuzza said without elaborating.

"The person from whom we obtained everything was Berlusconi and also one of our countrymen, Dell'Utri," said Spatuzza, Graviano's assistant.

He was referring to PdL Senator Marcello Dell'Utri who has been convicted of a series of crimes including mafia association. He has been sentenced to over 10 years in jail since 1999 but has never served time in prison.

Spatuzza made the remarks to prosecutors during questioning on 6 October. A transcription of Spatuzza's interrogation was made public on Friday at an appeals court in the southern Italian city of Palermo.

"I did not know Berlusconi, and I asked if it was the guy from Canale 5 (TV Channel 5) and Graviano told me that indeed it was. About the guy from our town, I was only told his surname, Dell'Utri, not his first name," said Spatuzza.

"Graviano told me that thanks to the seriousness of these people we had obtained what we wanted. "We have the country in the palm of our hand," he said.

Dell'Utri has dismissed Spatuzza's allegations as "nonsense".

"These claims are nonsense, which fortunately, still make me laugh. It is all melodrama which amuses me," Dell'Utri said on Friday from Palermo, where he is appealing the charges of Mafia association.

Further defending the premier, Ghedini also said Italy's judicial authorities have already "widely investigated the absurd accusations in the past...about Berlusconi and has completely ruled out any link with the mafia, a phenomenon that all governments headed by the honourable Berlusconi have always strongly opposed."

The statements by mafia turncoat Spatuzza were made public by the substitute attorney general of Palermo, Antonino Gatto.

Gatto also revealed the Sicilian mafia (also known in Italian as 'Cosa Nostra') had planned a major attack against Italy's paramilitary police or Carabinieri.

"In 1993 there was a planned attack in Rome by Cosa Nostra, against the police," he said.

"Gaspare Spatuzza and Cosimo Lo Nigro met Giuseppe Graviano...Some time afterwards, Giuseppe Graviano met the hired gunmen and planned a devastating attack against the police," Gatto continued.

Lo Nigro is a suspected Sicilian mafia member who is serving a life sentence for mafia attacks in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993.

"They were talking about at least 100 dead policemen. They were waiting for the 'go ahead' from Graviano," Gatto added.


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