Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Parliament backs premier Berlusconi

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi talks to politicians at the Lower Chamber, in Rome (AP)

The Italian parliament has rebuffed a request by prosecutors to search some of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's properties as part of a prostitution probe, giving the embattled leader a much-needed victory.

Milan prosecutors say Mr Berlusconi paid for sex with a minor and then used his office to cover it up.

They wanted to search the offices of Mr Berlusconi accountant Giuseppe Spinelli, who allegedly handled payments on behalf of the premier to the minor as well as other payments to a number of young women who attended parties at his villas.

The premier has denied wrongdoing.

Parliament rejected the prosecution requests in a 315-298 vote that came after a four-hour debate in the lower house.

The case was back to the prosecutors, challenging their jurisdiction.

The vote might have limited impact on the investigation. Magistrates are planning to go ahead with their probe and are expected to issue a request to charge Mr Berlusconi as early as next week.

But Thursday's vote was a significant victory in a test of Mr Berlusconi's grip on parliament. The premier's parliamentary majority eroded after he fell out with an ally last year, and he barely survived two votes of confidence in December.

Making the vote even more sensitive, Mr Berlusconi had already suffered a setback when a parliamentary commission deadlocked a government plan to grant Italy's towns and cities a greater role in taxation.