Berlusconi: The Man battling the Judicial “Taliban”

Last week, NATO declared its much heralded operation ‘Moshtarak’ a success with the Taliban cleared out of the Helmand province of Afghanistan. NATO has since declared that it is taking its fight to Kandahar, in the Pashtun heartland where several of the Taliban’s fighters have come from. In related news, the Russians took the chance to scuff some of the polish off NATO’s achievement by blaming rising drug use in Russia on failures by NATO in curbing poppy growing and exporting from Afghanistan.

Last week, NATO declared its much heralded operation ‘Moshtarak’ a success with the Taliban cleared out of the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

NATO has since declared that it is taking its fight to Kandahar, in the Pashtun heartland where several of the Taliban’s fighters have come from.

In related news, the Russians took the chance to scuff some of the polish off NATO’s achievement by blaming rising drug use in Russia on failures by NATO in curbing poppy growing and exporting from Afghanistan.

While the battles against Taliban snipers and IEDs in Helmand were winding down, a certain Prime Minister in Italy, itself a NATO member, declared that the Italian Judiciary was throttling democracy with its own brand of Taliban behavior. Quite a remarkable assertion.

To understand Mr. Silvio Berlusconi’s dim view of Italy’s judicial system, one has to understand that the Italian Prime Minister has had a long running battle with Prosecutors, Courts of all levels and has even had, on two occasions, to wrangle with the Parliament to get immunity laws passed essentially for himself.

Mr. Berlusconi has got himself elected to the Prime Minister’s office on 3 different occasions within the last 15 years, 1994 – 96, 2001 – 2006 and 2008 to the present.

In each of these terms, Berlusconi has faced various charges from tax evasion, embezzlement, perjury, false accounting to attempting to bribe a judge. By his own telling, he has made at least 2500 appearances before Italian courtrooms.

Berlusconi has kept out of the goal by use of a mixture of reducing the statute of limitations for some crimes, passing laws granting himself immunity against prosecution and, allegedly, even suborning perjury.

A British Tax Advisor, Mr. David Mills, was last February sentenced to four and a half years in jail for accepting money from Berlusconi to give false testimony in courts during his trials in the 90s.

This week, Mr. Mills’ sentence was quashed by the Italian Court of Cassation on the grounds that the case had been brought after its statute of limitations had run out. This of course may have spared the Premier a few less visits to the Court.

Last October, Berlusconi faced his greatest legal setback when the Consitutional Court, repeating its own decision made in 2004 against the very same Premier, ruled that the immunity law went against the constitutional principle that all Italians are equal before the law and was therefore unconstitutional.

In response, Mr. Berlusconi declared himself the ‘most persecuted person in the entire history of the world’ before he went on to detail his travails with the judicial system stating that he had spent nearly $300 million on “consultants and judges”.

He was quick to correct the slip of tongue to ‘lawyers’ but it was a telling mistake.

It is no easy to task to write on Berlusconi and make no allusion to his personal scandals or even his outrageous statements [one of which this title draws its inspiration from]. Let’s consider that the Rolling Stone magazine named him as the ‘Rockstar of 2009’ in tribute to his... well, fast lifestyle.

The year ended painfully for the Premier when he was attacked in Milan and hit in the face with a statuette on December 13th.

The cynics have already said that for all the pain suffered, that blow may just have salvaged his political career as the public sympathized with his pain and, temporarily, forgot about his scandals. Hands up if the name Noemi Letizia rings a bell.

Now that the scandals have dimmed a little in everyone’s mind,  all that’s left for the world’s most persecuted man is to take on the Taliban of the judicial system. 

okabatende@gmail.com

Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

 

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