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Interrogation of Berlusconi aide begins in Beirut

  • Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves the Catholic hospice "Sacra Famiglia" (Holy Family Institute foundation) in Cesano Boscone after his first day of community service for tax fraud on May 9, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE)

BEIRUT: The Lebanese judiciary began Monday interrogating former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s senior aide, 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 April 11 on charges of mafia connections after he fled to Beirut to escape trial in Italy.

Dell’Utri was interrogated by public prosecutor Nada al-Asmar after Italian authorities handed Lebanese authorities the businessman’s file last Friday, including charges against him along with a request to extradite him back to Rome to be tried there.

After being questioned for an hour and a half, Dell’Utri was returned to Al-Hayat Hospital, where he is under medical supervision.

Dell’Utri’s attorney, Akram Azouri, who was present at the interrogation, told The Daily Star that the court hearing was “good.”

“Judge Asmar adjourned the hearing without setting a new date for interrogation,” Azouri said.

Lebanon’s State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud told The Daily Star he’d review the results of the questioning and then give a recommendation to the Cabinet over whether Lebanon should hand Dell’Utri over to Italy.

“Whatever decision the Cabinet takes, it will be appealed in front of the Shura Council,” he said. That appeal can be either made on Dell’Utri’s behalf or on behalf of the Italian government.

Italy’s top court last week confirmed a seven-year sentence for Dell’Utri for having ties to the mafia, concluding a legal case launched in 2004.

Although he did not give any further details on the case, Azouri hinted at possibly filing an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Italian court’s decision.

Dell’Utri led the advertising arm of Berlusconi’s media business empire, and helped launch the disgraced premier’s political career in the early 1990s.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that Dell’Utri was sent to Lebanon by Berlusconi at the request of Russia to help Kataeb leader Amine Gemayel win the presidential election. Gemayel denied the claims.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2014, on page 3.
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Summary

The Lebanese judiciary began Monday interrogating former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's senior aide, arrested last month in Beirut over an Interpol warrant for links to the mafia, a judicial source told The Daily Star.

Dell'Utri was interrogated by public prosecutor Nada al-Asmar after Italian authorities handed Lebanese authorities the businessman's file last Friday, including charges against him along with a request to extradite him back to Rome to be tried there.

Dell'Utri's attorney, Akram Azouri, who was present at the interrogation, told The Daily Star that the court hearing was "good".


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