Police in Beirut have arrested a longtime political ally and friend of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi after he was declared a fugitive earlier this week.
Marcelo Dell’Utri, who co-founded Berlusconi’s Forza Italy party in 1994, is wanted ahead of a final verdict on Tuesday in a trial for mafia collusion.
Speaking on the sidelines of a political rally, Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, himself a former Berlusconi ally, said “his capture was obviously connected to an extradition procedure that the Italian government will activate immediately.
A year ago, a Palermo appeals court convicted the 72-year-old Dell’Utri of acting as a go-between for the Sicilian Mafia and several of Berlusconi’s Milan based companies. He was sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Both Berlusconi and Dell’Utri have been dogged by legal troubles for most of their political careers, and both accuse magistrates of persecuting them for political reasons.
The former Italian prime minister is expected to learn next week what community or social service he will have to carry out after being convicted of fiscal fraud.
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