Mark your calendars for February 11. That’s the date when the fate of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be decided by a court in Milan.
The wheels of justice run slowly in Italy and the Feb. 11 date is only two weeks before the statute of limitations runs out. The long-running saga of Berlusconi’s legal woes have become an opera buffa and put a spotlight on the shenanigans of Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men and among its most colorful leaders.
The current case stems from charges that Berlusconi gave $600,000 to British attorney David Mills so that Mills would lie in court on Berlusconi’s behalf. The alleged bribe was connected to a trial in the 1990s that had charged Berlusconi with financial wrongdoing related to the acquisition of U.S. rights for his film distribution company.
In the current case, an Italian court has already found Mills guilty of accepting a bribe from Berlusconi, but ruled that the evidence was inconclusive on whether Berlusconi was guilty of paying that bribe.
Now, Mills had said he lied in court about the bribe in order to avoid paying taxes on the money. Mills, who had been Berlusconi’s attorney, claims he is too ill to return to Italy and said, via a videoconference, that Berlusconi was innocent and had “absolutely nothing” to do with the $600,000. Berlusconi also maintains his innocence.
Given the characters and plot twists, some day they may all be singing about this at La Scala.
Just after her husband was ousted after 30 years in power, former Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak withdrew $191 million from the Women in Peace Foundation she had started in Geneva, according to the Swiss General Prosecutor.
Bikya Masr, a news website based in Egypt, reports that Swiss federal investigators are looking into alleged money laundering and other financial violations committed by Mubarak and her deputy, a Swiss resident. Swiss authorities have frozen the $962 million that Mubarak had received from regional and international donors to support the foundation that she founded in Geneva.
According to Swiss authorities, the $191 million was withdrawn by Mubarak’s deputy in Switzerland and deposited initially in Panama and then, within 72 hours, to banks in the Cayman Islands where it has since vanished.
The foundation, say Swiss authorities, received $1.23 billion between May 2006 and December 2010, all of which was deposited in Mubarak’s name rather than that of the foundation, whose stated purpose was to stop human trafficking. Critics say the foundation did nothing and was a scam.
No cameras allowed in the courtroom? No problem at the Cleveland corruption trial of Jimmy Dimora, a longtime political powerbroker and former Cuyahoga Country Commissioner accused of accepting bribes.
Use puppets instead. That’s the solution from Cleveland station WOIO, which has forsaken the use of courtroom artists and is using Sesame Street-style puppets — The Puppet’s Court, it is called — for its nightly broadcast.
The puppets talk about Rolex watches and read steamy testimony of topless hot-tub excursions in Las Vegas. Witnesses, reporters, the judge and the jury are all portrayed by puppets.
WOIO news director Dan Salamone says that the satire is not intended to replace serious coverage of the trial, which is also included in the nightly broadcast as well.
One thing is for certain: It’s awfully entertaining. Check out the video for yourself.