Italian law allows the re-opening of cases if there is compelling new evidence.
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is facing the loss of his senatorial immunity and the application of a one-year prison sentence, is making a last-minute attempt to obtain a re-trial.
On Monday, Mr. Berlusconi and his lawyers said they had evidence from fresh witnesses proving he had not indulged in tax fraud. Earlier this year, Italy’s richest man who has dominated his country’s politics for over two decades ran out of appeals and the court condemned him to four years in jail, of which only one has to be served. Because of his advanced age — he is 74 — Mr. Berlusconi is expected to serve his sentence doing community work.
According to Mr. Berlusconi’s lawyers, one of the new witnesses, a U.S. citizen called Dominique Appleby, has given a sworn affidavit stating that the billionaire politician is not guilty of fraud. However, Ms. Appleby’s testimony rests on shaky ground as her former boss, a close Berlusconi associate, was also held guilty of fraud. Ms. Appleby herself has a string of run-ins with U.S. law linked to tax evasion and fraud.
Italian law allows the re-opening of cases if there is compelling new evidence. Another rumour that was doing the rounds of Rome on Tuesday was that Mr. Berlusconi would be appointed Russia’s Ambassador to the Vatican. Such an appointment would give him diplomatic immunity, it was reported. Mr. Putin, who met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Tuesday, and Mr. Berlusconi are close friends.
But it is doubtful if the new Pope who is known for his insistence on honesty and transparency is likely to accept the letters of credential of a person so tainted by scandal as Mr. Berlusconi.
In addition to his conviction for tax fraud, Mr. Berlusconi has also appealed a sentence for having sex with an underage prostitute. Other corruption charges include the alleged payment of a 3-million euro bribe to a Senator.
Unnamed MPs quoted by right wing Italian newspapers said Mr. Putin was in favour of naming Mr. Berlusconi Russian Ambassador to the Holy See. Rumours allege that Mr. Putin attended Mr. Berlusconi’s infamous bunga bunga parties. They are known to have holidayed together and Mr. Berlusconi has named a bed after the Russian President in his Arcore estate near Milan.
However, sources close to Mr. Putin, including his spokesperson Dimitri Peskov, dismissed the rumours as being “utterly baseless”. Mr. Berlusconi also denied the claim, saying he was “100 per cent Italian”.