BEIRUT: Possible presidential candidate Amine Gemayel Monday denied reports that Russia had asked former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi to send his aide, who was arrested in Beirut last week, to help his election campaign.
“This news is totally untrue and it has been disseminated to cause disarray,” a statement from the Kataeb Party leader’s office said.
The denial was in response to a story Sunday in Italian daily La Repubblica that quoted Berlusconi as telling members of his Forza Italia! Party that he had sent Marcello Dell’Ultri to Lebanon at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin to help Gemayel win the upcoming election.
Dell’Ultri was arrested in a Beirut hotel last week on an Interpol arrest warrant after being declared a fugitive in Italy a few days earlier. Although he made a statement Friday saying that he was abroad seeking medical treatment, Italian authorities believe Dell’Ultri was trying to escape ahead of a final verdict Tuesday in a long-running trial over allegations of working with the mafia. He could face several years in prison if found guilty.
Dell’Ultri is currently being held at the ISF’s Information Branch in east Beirut. Under a bilateral accord dating back to 1975, Italy has 30 days from his arrest to issue an extradition request.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 15, 2014, on page 3.