Italy: Berlusconi party 'result of mafia negotiations'

Palermo, 8 Feb. (AKI) - Forza Italia, the party formed by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in the early 1990s, was established after negotiations between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia, according to the son of late mafia member and mayor of Palermo, Vito Cianciamino.

Massimo Ciancimino said his father told him that Forza Italia was founded after the mafia murdered two top anti-mafia judges, Giovanni Falcone, and Paolo Borsellino, in the Sicilian capital Palermo in 1992.

"Forza Italy was the result of negotiations between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia," Ciancimino stated.

He made the sensational claim on Monday in an open court, where he is appearing as a witness in an investigation into efforts to capture jailed mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano in April 2006, after 40 years on the run.

Ciancimino claimed Provenzano wrote a note to Berlusconi and Marcello Dell'Utri, a senator for media magnate Berlusconi's ruling conservative People of Freedom party and co-founder of its forerunner, the Forza Italia party.

"I intend to make my contribution which will not be an unimportant one," Provenzano allegedly stated in the note, a portion of which Ciancimino produced in court.

"I am certain that Berlusconi will be able to make his TV channels available," the note read. It allegedly contained a threat to kidnap Berlusconi's children.

"With this message, Provenzano wanted to attract the attention of Forza Italia," Ciancimino said, claiming that the first half of the note had "disappeared".

Ciancimino's claims were immediately denied by Italian justice minister Angelino Alfano on Monday.

"Forza Italia has never had any link to the mafia. This is an an attempt to discredit the Berlusconi government, which has always been at the frontline in the fight against the mafia, " Alfano said.

Angelino is a member of Berlusconi's ruling People of Freedom party, formed last year when Forza Italia merged with the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale party

Dell'Utri, a native of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, was in 2004 convicted of mafia association and given a nine-year jail term, but plea-bargained a much lighter sentence of 2 years and three months for tax fraud.

Vito Ciancimino was the first Italian politician convicted for being a member of the mafia.

He died in 2002, a year after his failing health prompted authorities to commute his 13-year- sentence to house arrest.

Ciancimino said Provenzano communicated with his father via written notes which were hand-delivered to him in sealed envelopes by Provenzano's aides but that he was replaced by Dell'Utri.

Berlusconi's lawyer Nicolo Ghedini has already said he will sue Ciancimino for "baseless and slanderous" claims he made last week that the Sicilian mafia invested heavily in the Milano2 suburb, built by Berlusconi's property company in the 1970s.


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