Italy’s corruption probe hits Fininvest again

Fininvest, the entertainment holding company owned by TV tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, was brushed for the second time last week by Italy’s sweeping anti-corruption investigations.

Milan magistrates are examining the confession of Giovanni Marone, an aide to former health minister Francesco De Lorenzo.

Marone claims he took bribes for the minister from various TV networks and production companies commissioned to create and air a public service message.

Ministry budgets about $ 30 million a year for the messages. Last Thursday, an arrest warrant was issued for Aldo Brancher, an aide to Berlusconi’s No. 2 man, Fedele Confalonieri. Brancher handles political party relations for Fininvest. His company, Promogolden, is accused of paying $ 200,000 in kickbacks to De Lorenzo.

Marone also accused three other broadcasting groups of bribery.

Fininvest immediately defended itself by saying it had received no special privileges from the ministry. Berlusconi’s group laid all eventual responsibility at the door of Aldo Brancher and the ad agencies (including giants Young & Rubicam, Armando Testa, SCR and FCB Mac Publicis) working for Fininvest when the ministry came in as an advertiser. Brancher backed Fininvest, saying, “The matter regards my company Promogolden.”