Berlusconi's rise 'financed by the mafia'
THE mafia invested heavily in a housing project that gave the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi his big break as a developer and enabled him to launch a political career, an Italian court has been told.
The allegation was made in a Palermo court by Massimo Ciancimino, the son of a mafia don who was close to the head of the Sicilian mafia's 'boss of bosses' Bernardo Provenzano.
Mr Ciancimino claimed that his father, Vito, along with two mafiosi connected to the building industry, invested "dirty money" in Mr Berlusconi's sprawling housing estate on the edge of Milan.
There has been intense speculation as to how the young Mr Berlusconi, who came from a modest middle-class family, raised the capital to fund the construction of the ambitious 1970s apartment complex, known as Milano 2, which included lakes, tennis courts, schools and shops.
Mr Ciancimino told the court: "My father diversified his investments to evade anti-mafia investigators.
"He considered the Milan mega-project a bit pharaonic and was hesitant, but then he decided to participate through various companies."
Mr Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini categorically denied the claim that his client had ever accepted mafia money and said he would sue Ciancimino for defamation.
"All the flows of investment into Milano 2 were transparent and they've been subject to scrutiny many times," said Mr Ghedini.
The profit Mr Berlusconi accrued from the development put him on course to become one of Italy's richest men.
Mr Ciancimino was testifying in the trial of a senior carabinieri officer, who is accused of helping Bernardo Provenzano to evade capture.
Provenzano was the 'boss of bosses' of the Sicilian mafia from 1993 until his arrest in 2006, after 43 years on the run.
"Marcello Dell'Utri and Bernardo Provenzano had direct links. My father told me this and he had been told by the boss from Corleone," said Ciancimino.
Dell'Utri is a long-time business and political associate of the 73-year-old media mogul Berlusconi and is appealing against a nine-year jail sentence for association with the mafia.
Mr Berlusconi is not formally linked to the Dell'Utri case and said last year that the mob allegations -- which have not so far led to any fresh investigation involving him -- were unfounded and part of a campaign against him by biased courts. (© Daily Telegraph, London)