Charges don't stick to the teflon tycoon
Berlusconi pulls out all the stops to ensure his legal victories
THAT SILVIO Berlusconi, the Teflon Tycoon, will stop at little to avoid a prison sentence is not in doubt. But his inventiveness under legal fire has become clearer than ever in the past 24 hours, with news that a startled George Clooney, the Hollywood star, will be called to the mogul's defence, while Berlusconi supporters in parliament launch another attempt to undermine the Italian legal-system.
The prime minister's lawyers want Mr Clooney to tell the imminent trial in which Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with a minor that the premier's notorious soirees were in his words "elegant and sophisticated" events and not orgies involving prostitutes. But it's far from the only example of Berlusconi's wiliness. The range and sophistication of his strategies to avoid trial -- whether through political manoeuvring, appeals to the public, or cunning exploitation of a legal system that has so far proven utterly unable to make a charge stick and turf him out of office -- has evolved into a masterclass in how to keep your nose clean, even when everyone is insisting it must be dirty.
The Clooney incident is a case in point. Reports suggest the Hollywood A-lister popped over once from his nearby villa at Lake Como in the hope of tapping into the Berlusconi billions for his Darfur charity. Mr Clooney has not said if it was worth the trip, though he was "very surprised" to hear about his call to the witness box. Other Italian TV personalities and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo will also testify to the parties' respectability along with Equal Opportunities Minister (and former topless model) Mara Carfagna.