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SILVIO BUYS QUINTA

Berlus-crony Ben Ammar's sale disclosed

MILAN – Tunisian producer/distributor Tarak Ben Ammar has sold a majority stake in Quinta Communications to media magnate Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest, Italy’s daily paper Corriere della Sera has reported.

According to the report, which was not confirmed by the two companies, the deal was signed some months ago and kept secret. It regarded the sale of a 44.9% stake in Quinta. Fininvest already owned a 33.4% stake. Germany’s Kirch Group is believed to hold another 10% of Quinta.

Ben Ammar is a personal friend of Berlusconi and of his former political sponsor, the now-disgraced former Socialist Party leader Bettino Craxi. Son of a former Tunisian ambassador to Rome, Ben Ammar is well-known in Italy’s TV and film industry.

Ben Ammar has often been involved as a go-between in important deals such as the acquisition of a stake in Berlusconi’s TV company Mediaset by Saudi prince Al Waleed Ben Talal. Al Waleed recently appointed Ben Ammar as his representative on the board of Mediaset.

More frequently, Ben Ammar sold film and TV shows to Italy’s TV broadcasters, both to Fininvest channels and to pubcaster RAI.

Earlier this year, he was involved in a judicial inquiry regarding Berlusconi and the alleged $6.4 million in secret money funneled by the TV tycoon to Craxi. The funds did not show up in Fininvest accounting records, but were logged in an overseas account by a Panamanian company linked to Fininvest, Milan magistrates believe.

Berlusconi has always denied any illegal payments to Craxi and claimed he used the Panamanian company to pay for TV rights to Ben Ammar’s shows. Ben Ammar has confirmed this version.

Berlusconi is currently standing trial on these charges.

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