BEIRUT: The Lebanese judiciary began Monday interrogating former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's senior aide, who was arrested last month in Beirut over an Interpol warrant for links to the mafia, a judicial source told The Daily Star.
Marcello Dell’Utri, 72, was apprehended on Apr. 11 on charges of mafia connections after he fled to Beirut to escape trial in Italy.
Dell’Utri's was interrogated by public prosecutor Nada al-Asmar a day after Italian authorities handed Lebanon the businessman’s case, including charges against him along with a request to extradite and prosecute him in Rome.
Lebanon’s State Prosecutor, Samir Hammoud, told The Daily Star he would review the results of the questioning and then recommend to the Cabinet whether Lebanon should hand Dell’Utri over to Italy.
Italy's top court last week confirmed a seven-year sentence against Dell'Utri concluding a legal case that has lasted for more than two decades.
Dell'Utri led the advertising arm of Berlusconi's media business empire, and helped his political debut with the foundation of the Forza Italia (Go Italy) party in the early 1990s.
He was reportedly sent to Lebanon by the former premier at the request of Russia to help Kataeb leader Amine Gemayel win the Lebanese presidential election, according to an Italian newspaper.
“Marcello [Dell’Ultri] is in Lebanon and I sent him,” La Repubblica quoted Berlusconi as telling members of his Forza Italia party. “I sent him to Beirut a few days ago because [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has asked me to support the campaign of Amine Gemayel.”
Earlier this month, another Italian political figure was arrested for trying to help a convicted mafia businessman flee to Lebanon, with the arrests revealing possible links to Gemayel as well.