Of course, Berlusconi tends to get grilled in the European media because he tends to be right-wing
It may surprise you to learn that politics (in the world outside the USA, at least) doesn't all boil down to right vs. left.
I went to the effort of looking up a few details, because yes/no/yes/no/yes/no arguments just don't get us anywhere. Feel free to correct me if anything isn't accurate; but I think this is enough to convince most people that Berlusconi is not a fit leader.
1. Berlusconi's first big business venture was a housing development in Milan. There was great suspicion over his financing (it came from Swiss companies that appeared to be Berlusconi-owned, which would have been illegal). The Italian finance police decided not to look any further; shortly afterwards, the chief investigator (who also allegedly had mafia ties) became a lawyer for Berlusconi, and subsequently a Forza Italia politican.
2. Mafiosi claimed that Berlusconi was distantly connected to killing of 2 anti-Mafia magistrates in 1992. Berlusconi, as ever, claimed this was a left-wing conspiracy to discredit him; the judge finally (after 14 months) dismissed a murder trial for lack of evidence but said:
"The links discovered between companies controlled by the Fininvest Group and individuals connected to Cosa Nostra constitute objective facts that render the reconstructions offered by several state's witnesses not entirely implausible or strange
2. Berlusconi also hired Mangano, who was certainly in the mob, and dabbled in drug trafficking when not managing the stables. Mafiosi often dropped by, ostensibly for a chat with Mangano, when Berlusconi was on the premises.
3. AIUI he was previously convicted on three charges (bribery, illegal party financing, false accounting) but all three were overturned on appeal, due to the statute of limitations.
4. Bettino Craxi (former prime minister) effectively awarded his friend a monopoly on private television. This coincided with Berlusconi-run companies transferring $10m into Craxi's offshore bank accounts.
5. Berlusconi was charged with bribing a judge for a favourable outcome in a battle over control of a publishing group in 1991. Eventually he got out through the statute of limitations, although Previti and six other associates were convicted.
6. There were 2 further, separate investigations in 1996 into Mafia links; both were dropped for lack of evidence, despite repeated statements to police by Bernardo Provenzano's aide.
7. When Dell'Utri was tried for Mafia links (and specifically, laundering Mafia money through a Berlusconi business), Berlusconi claimed his right to avoid self-incriminating testimony, and consequently gave no evidence. Dell'Utri got a 2 year prison sentence.
8. Still nobody actually knows where Fininvest got all its money from, or how it was shuffled around, and Berlusconi has repeatedly refused to give details.
9. In 1986 he allegedly bribed judges to prevent a food company being taken over by a rival. Previti was accused too. Berlusconi blames it all on Prodi, and says that Craxi begged him to make dubious bids; he supposedly did so "for the good of Italy" rather than for the good of his own bank account. In this trial, Berlusconi exploited another handy loophole of Italian law that enabled him to make a single testimony without cross-examination.
Berlusconi still says all that is a left-wing conspiracy, but who could honestly say that people like Di Pietro are left-wing partisans?
10. He tried to get his trial for bribing judges moved to another court away from Milan; coincidentally using legislation that his party pushed through last November (forcing a change of court at a late date makes it much easier to hit the statute of limitations because all the evidence must be reheard). Thankfully, the Court of Cassation didn't accept this particular attempt.
11. The justice minister then repeatedly threatened to take action against magistrates/judges pursuing ill-defined "left-wing vendettas", IE
those having the temerity to challeng Berlusconi's dodgy dealings.
12. Conveniently, Berlusconi-owned media channels have been repeatedly emphasising that civil servants have no right to investigate elected officials.
13. Strangely enough, Berlusconi's party recently rushed through more legislation, which seemed tailor-made to grant him (and Previti) immunity from their latest court case. Unfortunately, it wasn't passed quickly enough; Previti was convicted (despite another attempt at stalling the trial with a court change thanks to last november's legislation). However, Berlusconi is now immune.
14. In the last two years alone, 87 separate investigations into Berlusconi's business activities have been made by "Jacobin leftwing magistrates".
If you're going to toe Berlusconi's line of "It's all a left-wing conspiracy", it would be a good idea for you to at least try
to offer some
evidence to back it up.
Funny how everybody only talks about Mr. Berlusconi's comments and not about the comment of Mr. Shultz, who started the discussion, by calling Mr. Berlusconi a mafiosi. He just got what he asked for in my opinion.
Floris, are the above facts enough to justify the "mafiosi" call? Yes or no?
Edit: I must apologise for monopolising the thread with posts like this. A large part of my job is, err, ending arguments. It eventually becomes a habit. Sorry
[Edited 2003-07-03 03:22:53]