Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s
billionaire prime minister, and his family hold more than €60m
($90m) in accounts registered with the Milan branch of a Swiss bank
that is under investigation for money laundering, a television
programme claimed on Sunday.
The programme, Report, state television’s highest profile
documentary series, focused on Bank Arner, a Swiss bank based in
Lugano. The Milan branch is under investigation by prosecutors for
suspected money laundering. Its management was taken over last year
by the Bank of Italy, the central bank, which also suspected money
laundering, according to bank documents.
Mr Berlusconi’s use of Arner, a boutique bank founded by Paolo Del
Bue, a business associate, had been revealed in previous court cases
involving the prime minister’s Fininvest media empire. Italian media
reports refer to Arner as the “Berlusconi family bank”. Arner could
not be reached for comment on Sunday.
The documentary, presented by Milena Gabanelli and researched by
Paolo Mondani, is the first report to put a figure on Mr
Berlusconi’s deposits, alleging he held more than €10m (£9m) at the
branch. His son, Piersilvio, head of the family’s Mediaset
television group, and his daughter, Marina, head of the Mondadori
publishing company, were said to hold about €50m. No source was
In the programme, Ms Gabanelli says that while having deposits in
the bank did not indicate the funds were about to leave the country,
this would be an “appropriate moment” for the prime minister to move
his family’s money “into an Italian bank with a little more
Broadcast on Rai, the state television network, Report has large
audience figures. Its disclosures are likely to refocus public
attention on Mr Berlusconi’s business interests and the impact of a
sweeping amnesty for Italian tax evaders with money in foreign banks,
as a Milan court prepares to reopen a trial involving the prime
minister, Mr Del Bue and others linked to Mediaset.
Mr Berlusconi denies charges linked to tax fraud in Mediaset’s
acquisition of US film and television rights. Mr Del Bue, who was
reported to have stepped down as head of Bank Arner in 2005, has
denied money-laundering charges.
The trial was suspended last year when Mr Berlusconi was given
immunity by an act of parliament. The trial had been due to resume
on Monday following a ruling last month by Italy’s highest court
that the act was unconstitutional
Mr Berlusconi’s office had no immediate comment on Sunday. Niccolo
Ghedini, his lawyer, responding to an earlier newspaper report about
Bank Arner, stated that hundreds of judicial requests for
documentation had shown “beyond all doubt” that the Berlusconi
family held no funds outside Italy.