FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Berlusconi’s Acquital

by

Billionaire Berlusconi has been ‘cleared’, ‘acquitted’ of having sex with Moroccan underage prostitute ‘Ruby’ Karima el-Mahroug, and then of using his influence to cover it up. The media coverage of Italy’s appeal court decision last week seemed pretty clear cut. Silvio has been right all along – he is indeed a saint, eternally harassed and groundlessly persecuted by ‘red’ magistrates.

On receiving the news the media mogul was jubilant. In characteristic style, he played the part of victim, declaring that he was ‘deeply moved’ by the verdict, which reversed a lower court conviction that had carried a seven-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on holding political office.

He added: ‘Only those close to me over the years know how I have suffered at these unjust and defamatory accusations….My first thoughts today go to my loved ones, who have suffered with me years of media aggression, gossip, slander, and who have remained beside me with unmatched affection and serenity.’

The three times PM has always denied the charges, with both he and Mahroug, who was 17 when she hung out at Berlusconi’s villa, denying performing the act. Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations. This has always been Silvio’s approach.

And so too his more fanatical supports. Lawmaker Renato Brunetta, a leading member of his idol’s party Forza Italia, wrote on Twitter “Berlusconi innocent!!!”

Yeah right… We will know the ‘motivations’ of the judgement within 90 days, and the case will now reportedly go to a second and final appeal before Italy’s Corte di Cassazione (Supreme Court), probably in the autumn of next year.

But, according to judge and former senator Domenico Gallo, what we can be clear about already is that the appeal court’s decision does not overturn the facts of the case. Nor does it “absolve Berlusconi from political and moral responsibility for the consequences of his behaviour.”

The ruling does not deny the fact that in the middle of the night of 28 May 2010 he telephoned Pietro Ostumi,  chief of staff at the police headquarters in Milan, abusing his position as Italy’s PM, tricking them with the lie that she was the niece of deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarrak in order to obtain the minor’s release. As the state prosecution asserted once again last week, he “ordered” the Ruby’s release thanks to an “implicit threat” against police and judicial officials. Of course, Mr Berlusconi’s defence, the phone calls were “mere requests” to the police.

Nor does the judgement erase the fact that he entrusted the girl, the star of the sleazy nights at his palatial villa outside Milan, to a certain Nicole Minetti, a regional councillor  at the centre of a web of prostitution for Silvio’s Bunga Bunga soirees, rather than to a shelter for juvenile offenders (she’d been apprehended for stealing), as required by the probate judge.

Although Berlusconi lied to the Milan police, this wasn’t in itself a criminal act. And this, in large part because of a law change in 2012, pacted between Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party and the Democrats, who were at the time in bed together, supporting technocrat and Bilderberger PM Mario Monti.

Under the Severino law, judges would have to prove that the telephone call directly favoured the then prime minister, and not just young Ruby. Which, surprise, surprise, they couldn’t.

As investigative journalist Peter Gomez notes while the law was being debated in parliament it was already under heavy fire as an abomination. Joining calls for the law to be revisited a year later in the light of numerous resulting legal fiascos, Pietro Grasso, a former anti-mafia judge and today leader of the Senate, specifically pin-pointed Berlusconi’s prostitution case as one of many trials that would “come to nothing,” according to Gomez.

As for the acquittal of the crime of child prostitution, the appeal court probably did not consider proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Berlusconi was aware that the girl was a minor, as Berlusconi’s own defence lawyer suggested to the press. This more stringent requirement is also a result of changes in the law. “Once upon a time he’d be acquitted for lack of evidence, now you acquitted tout court,” argues Mauro Barabaris, a law professor at the University of Trieste.

So where does this leave saintly Silvio?

“If the Court of Appeal acquitted him of criminal responsibility, it certainly does not absolve him of his own behaviour, which must be submitted to the judgment of the public,” says Gallo.

As he was at the time a politician in government he should have exercised his public functions with “discipline and honour”, as article 54 of the Italian Constitution requires. “The judgment of the Court of Milan cancels the offense, but not the dishonour of the disgraceful behaviour by a public official,” Gallo adds.

With big money calling the shots, honour in public office seems as rare as justice in the courts. Especially in Europe’s Banana Republic.

Over the last two decades – a period during which he has dominated Italian politics –  Berlusconi has featured in at least 20 major court cases in which he has been accused, but, nearly always not convicted, of corruption, bribery, fraud, false book-keeping, money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes. This, thanks in no small way to dozens of ‘ad personam’ laws and the best lawyers his billions can buy. The only charges that have stuck are for a £300 million tax fraud charge, for which he’s doing a few hours of community service in a facility for Alzheimer’s patients, conveniently located near Milan.

The political repercussions of all this are rosy for Berlusconi. As leader of a major (if no longer the leading) party, he could yet mount a comeback. And Silvio knows he can count on a little help from his friends. In particular, Democrat leader and PM Matteo Renzi, who has publicly shown nothing but the utmost respect for the tax convict (for which Berlusconi’s TV channels and newspapers have amply rewarded Renzi with good press). Most importantly Renzi needs the media mogul’s support to push through his neo-liberal ‘reform’ process.

Berlusconi’s political death certificate has been signed by journalists, political opponents and commentators many times, most recently when he was ousted in 2011 for getting on the wrong side of the ‘markets’, and then when he was booted out of Senate in November, following his definitive tax fraud conviction. It is a fair bet that 77-year old Berlusconi will only really be ‘dead’ when he’s six feet under.

Tom Gill edits Revolting Europe.

Tom Gill edits Revolting Europe.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail