ITALY: Swiss prosecutors investigate Berlusconi-linked businessmen on laundering suspicion
- Swiss prosecutors investigate Berlusconi-linked businessmen on laundering suspicionhttp://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/22/europe/EU_GEN_Switzerland_Italy_Berlusconi.php
Four managers belonging to Mediaset, the media empire controlled by former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, are being investigated in Switzerland for possible money laundering, a Swiss official said Wednesday.
Jeannette Balmer, spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's office, said the investigation was part of a probe launched in October 2005 at the request of Italian prosecutors investigating alleged fictitious and elevated payments for film rights.
Since 2002, Switzerland has provided legal assistance to Italy in 18 related cases, and four further requests are still pending legal approval, Balmer told The Associated Press.
She said one Italian request for legal assistance led authorities last year to freeze bank accounts holding more than 150 million Swiss francs (US$120 million; €95 million), but she would not give a total value of assets blocked by authorities. She also refused to identify the Mediaset managers being investigated.
Prosecutors in Milan investigating Berlusconi have repeatedly requested information on financial transactions that flowed through Switzerland.
Berlusconi, who is Italy's richest man according to Forbes magazine, went on trial Tuesday in Milan alongside the estranged husband of Britain's culture minister.
The two men were among 12 people facing charges of false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud in the purchase of TV rights for U.S. movies by Mediaset, which is controlled by Berlusconi's family through the investment company Fininvest.
All have denied wrongdoing.
Berlusconi, 70, was twice Italy's premier and has been serving as opposition leader since he lost power to Romano Prodi's center-left coalition in April elections.
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