These trials, scattered throughout Italy, have accused him of offenses ranging from corruption to complicity in massacres, from false accounting to extortion, and even including contempt for the judicial system and involvement in underage prostitution. Alberto de Filippis – a journalist and analyst at Euronews told us a nice story about criminal ties of Silvio Berlusconi.
With the exception of one trial resulting in a conviction, most of these cases have ended either with the expiration of the statute of limitations or with acquittals, dismissals, or dismissals during the investigation or preliminary hearing phase.
Notable among them is the (now prescribed) case involving the British lawyer David Mills, whom Berlusconi paid to be evasive as a witness before judges who were judging him in the trials for "Bribes to the Guardia di Finanza" and "All Iberian," the latter case closed in 1999 with a second-degree ruling stating "no further action is required because the offense has expired due to prescription." In the first instance, the Cavaliere had been sentenced to two years and four months for illicit financing of the leader of the PSI, Bettino Craxi.
Perhaps the most odious trials for Silvio Berlusconi were not so much those related to alleged judicial corruption or the buying of senators but those involving sexual scandals. These include the ongoing trial for inducing false testimony in the "Escort" case in Bari and the Ruby case, with its two branches. He was fully and definitively acquitted of charges of underage prostitution and extortion and was also cleared in the trials in Siena and Rome, where he was accused of paying his young witnesses and some of his guests to testify that the events in Arcore were merely elegant dinners and not "osé" parties.
Today, the Milan judges have acquitted him again, along with Ruby-Karima and a group of girls, on the same charges, based on a legal technicality that annulled any judgment on the merits and made it impossible to establish a crime.
In the Italian media, friends, and foes have begun to comment, celebrating the figure of a great entrepreneur, forgetting the faults of what his enemies called "the caiman" because he devoured everything. He never wanted to name a political heir and sold the image abroad of a somewhat foolish but ultimately good-natured Italian. However, it is primarily his ties with Vladimir Putin that will be remembered, especially abroad, probably not in Italy, a country suffering from severe selective memory.
- The twenty bottles of vodka that Silvio Berlusconi said he received as gifts from Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by a very affectionate letter and reciprocated with an equal number of bottles of fine Lambrusco, are just the latest gifts exchanged between the two in their 21-year friendship and business relationship.
- One of the most famous was the duvet cover that the then former Prime Minister of Italy (he had left office in 2006 and would resume it in 2008) gave to the President of the Russian Federation for his birthday on October 7, 2007. It featured a photo of a handshake between the two of them.
- Among the gifts that accompanied the relationship between Berlusconi and Putin, a "bed" is often mentioned, donated by the Russian president and mentioned in the testimonies of Patrizia D'Addario (a female prostitute that Berlusconi knew) in the investigation into the so-called "escort case" conducted by the Bari prosecutor's office.
The history of the relationship between Berlusconi and Putin is not just one of friendship. According to all available information, the two leaders undeniably liked each other and shared certain character traits. But in addition to photographs of the two wearing fur hats or Putin throwing a ball to Dudù, one of Berlusconi's white poodles, there is more to it. The relationship between Berlusconi and Putin has also been one of business and political vision.
Berlusconi attributed the responsibility for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a compromising audio recording leaked during a private meeting of Forza Italia and released by the LaPresse news agency. In 2003, when asked by journalists to comment on the documented atrocities committed by the Russian army and secret services in Chechnya, he replied, "Let's not spread legends, please," and referred to the Russian repression in Chechnya as "an ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the Caucasus."
In September 2015, one year after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, condemned by the international community, Berlusconi privately visited Putin in Sochi. They then traveled together in a white helicopter to Sevastopol, a city in the territories annexed by the Russians. A few days later, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine banned Berlusconi from entering the country for the next three years. The Kiev prosecutor's office also opened an investigation because Putin and Berlusconi had opened and consumed a bottle of sherry dated 1765 worth $150,000 during their visit to Crimea. The Ukrainians considered that bottle to be public property.
Berlusconi and Putin first met during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. The former ambassador Umberto Vattani recounted on the La7 program "L'aria che tira": "Putin didn't smile; he had a cold look. Berlusconi asked him why such an important country like Russia was not in the European Union. The Russian ambassador asked me if he had heard correctly." A few days after the end of the G8, Putin called Berlusconi to thank him for the hospitality, and thus began a series of phone calls and contacts. The then Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Giuliano Urbani, said, "The frequency of contacts between Berlusconi and Putin is very high, definitely very high."
Less than a year later, in Pratica di Mare, 19 NATO countries and Russia signed a declaration (the so-called Rome Declaration) in which they committed to create a council of 20 states that would discuss issues related to counterterrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms control and confidence-building measures, theater missile defense, maritime rescue operations, military cooperation and defense system reform, plans for civil emergencies, challenges and new threats. Berlusconi, who hosted the meeting, often described that event as his greatest diplomatic success, claiming that it marked the end of the Cold War. He referred to those agreements as the "marriage of Pratica di Mare."
Shortly after the signing of those agreements, Berlusconi visited Sochi on the Black Sea for the first time, staying at the Bocharov Ruchey, the Russian presidents' residence. Departing from Rome, he said, "I feel like I'm visiting an old friend." Putin then visited Berlusconi at Villa Certosa in Sardinia, one of his private residences. In the summer of 2002, Putin returned to Sardinia, and their respective wives, Veronica Lario and Lyudmila Putina, also became friends. On the occasion of the visit, the then Italian Prime Minister organized a grand fireworks show. Something went wrong, and some of the fireworks grazed the terrace where Putin, Berlusconi, their wives, and guests were seated. Berlusconi was very upset about it.
In the following years, visits and meetings between the two intensified. When Berlusconi arrived in Moscow, a Zil car, the cars used by the Soviet apparatus, measuring six and a half meters long, was waiting for him at the airport. In 2007, the visit was to St. Petersburg, where Putin arranged a show of Cossacks and belly dancers for the Italian leader. A few months later, Berlusconi reciprocated at Villa Certosa in Sardinia, having the entire cast of the Bagaglino, a Roman comedy company, perform for Putin. Another time, the opera singer Andrea Bocelli performed.
Berlusconi also hosted Putin on his yacht, Principessa VaiVia. On that occasion, the destroyer Smetlivy sailed nearby as an escort. Berlusconi said, "Putin is a man of destiny," and "Vladimir is the greatest world leader." Putin, in turn, said, "Everyone is envious of Silvio" and "Berlusconi is one of the greatest European political leaders of the post-war period."
Their relationship sometimes seemed like a competition to impress each other. Berlusconi proudly showed off his collection of over 400 species of cacti in Sardinia. Another legendary, unverifiable anecdote was told by Mattia Feltri in La Stampa. According to the story, during a hunting trip at a country house in Russia (a dacha), Berlusconi and Putin went hunting without "bodyguards or right-hand men. They noticed a shadow. Volodia (Putin) fired. He brought down a deer on the spot. He took out his knife, extracted the still-warm heart, and handed it to his guest as a supreme gesture. Silvio collapsed."
In April 2008, during a press conference following Putin's visit to Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, a Russian journalist asked Putin, "Is it true that you want a divorce?" Those present reported seconds of silence in the room, and then Putin replied, "It is known that I like beautiful women. Silvio likes beautiful women too. So, we understand each other."
The Russian press enjoyed publishing anecdotes about Berlusconi's "affection" for the Russian president. In 2007, a caricature by Sergei Yolkin appeared in the press. It depicted Berlusconi holding a bloodied knife and severed finger with a delighted look on his face. A few months later, when the Russian magazine Novaya Gazeta reported the suspicion that Putin had two houses, one in Moscow and one in Sochi, Berlusconi defended his friend. "I can assure you that he doesn't have just two. He has many more."
Also for this "friendship" with the criminal at the Kremlin, he will be remembered in the history books.