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How Long Can Berlusconi Evade Justice?


The Sacramento Bee, Jun. 21, 2003

"Talk about your Hollywood endings! There was Silvio Berlusconi in court, accused of trying to bribe judges into blessing his attempted takeover of a major food company back in the 1980s. Complicated stuff like that. A verdict was near. Was he in imminent peril of going to jail? Hardly. Just in the nick of time, Italy's parliament came through with a law that grants immunity from prosecution to the country's top five politicians during their term of office. Guess how many of the top five were being prosecuted? One. Guess who it was? No prize if you guessed Silvio Berlusconi. Scratch one bribery trial."
"He's the prime minister, by the way, and the timing of the new law was doubly beneficial. On Jul. 1, Italy takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union. Think how awkward it would be for Signor Berlusconi, just as he settled into the chairman's seat, gavel in hand, to be accosted by a couple of cops and hustled away in full view of his fellow prime ministers. The question now is whether there will be a day of reckoning in 2006, when Berlusconi's term of office ends and he again becomes subject to the same vicissitudes of life as the rest of us - at least in theory."
"What he will do then we're not sure, but he's pretty shrewd. He's already beaten two corruption raps. He's also Italy's richest man and its biggest media mogul, whose T.V. outlets reach 90 percent of the audience. How fortunate he is to have friends in high places."