Milan authorities have identified ten new Swiss bank accounts suspected of being used illegally by the Italian media group Mediaset, controlled by Silvio Berlusconi.This content was published on November 2, 2005 - 22:30
The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office has confirmed information published by several Italian newspapers about the existence of accounts implicating the Italian prime minister.
According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, investigators in Milan have been in contact with their Swiss counterparts to try to track down the people who opened the ten accounts.
An 11th account has been discovered in Liechtenstein, according to the Italian media. The amount of money in the Swiss accounts is not at present known.
Swiss authorities have already blocked 12 other accounts in Switzerland, five belonging to the Egyptian-born cinema producer Farouk Agrama, alleged to be a shadow associate of Berlusconi.
According to another Italian daily, the Corriere della Sera, the five accounts are said to contain SFr140 million ($109.5 million).
This figure has been confirmed by the Federal Prosecutor's Office which says it had ordered "several other accounts to be blocked... in the framework of judicial aid requested by Milan involving sums of money in the range of those indicated in the Italian press".
Swiss justice has not only been responding to requests for judicial cooperation in the Mediaset affair.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office said it had opened its own investigation on October 3 into money laundering, which resulted in the blocking of SFr3 million.
Contacted by the Swiss News Agency on Wednesday, the Milan prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale who has been working on the dossier said that since May 2002 almost 20 requests for judicial cooperation had been made to the Swiss authorities.
These requests had almost all been accepted, some with the consent of the parties concerned and others with rulings of the Federal Court in Lausanne.
The Mediaset affair concerns the purchase and sale of television and cinema rights to the United States by the private media group controlled by the Berlusconi family.
These operations, according to Italian judicial authorities, allowed illegal funds to be built up abroad. De Pasquale has put forward a figure of $170 million between 1988 and 1999.
In a statement published on Tuesday evening, Mediaset denied any link with the suspect accounts discovered in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
swissinfo with agencies
The holding company Fininvest has a 34.3% stake in the media group Mediaset. Fininvest is the holding group of the Berlusconi family and is chaired by Berlusconi's daughter Marina.
Her brother Pier Silvio, is deputy chairman of the Mediaset group.
At the end of October, an Italian court met behind closed doors to decide whether Silvio Berlusconi and 13 others should stand trial for alleged fraud at Mediaset. The proceedings have been adjourned until November 7.
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