MILAN — Italo Prime Minister and Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi has once again outmaneuvered his opponents by introducing a bill that makes him immune from prosecution.
The media mogul-turned-pol’s legislation was passed by a comfortable majority in the Senate on Tuesday.
All it needs now is rubber-stamping by state President Giorgi Napolitano, and then Italy’s four highest-ranking officials, including Berlusconi, will be out of the judiciary’s reach.
As critics have noted, the corruption charges Berlusconi faces will have to be dropped.
In one case, prosecutors claim that Berlusconi bribed British lawyer David Mills $600,000 to lie about Mediaset slush funds.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Naples accuse him of abusing his power to get his favorite starlets jobs on pubcaster RAI.
“Citizens have the right to know if their prime minister is or isn’t a criminal,” railed one of Berlusconi’s leading political opponents Antonio Di Pietro, a former anti-corruption investigator.
But leading political commentator Sergio Romano said it seemed inevitable the legislation would “put an end to the one or two remaining trials against Berlusconi. And that really seems to have been accepted by most people among the main political parties.”
Since he was elected for a third time in April with a strong parliamentary majority, the Mediaset owner has been engaged in war of words with the judiciary. Last month he caused outrage by calling Italy’s judges a “cancer of democracy.”
He insists politically motivated prosecutors have been out to get him since he entered politics 14 years ago.
The power of Italy’s judiciary, already considerable by international standards, was swelled further in the 1990s when judges toppled the leaders of the main political parties in huge corruption trials.
Even the left-wing daily La Repubblica recently printed opinion polls showing that most members of the public do not trust the judiciary.