Berlusconi's defence of bribes sparks backlash

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 18:00 hrs

Rome, Feb 14 (IANS/AKI) Italy's former premier Silvio Berlusconi Thursday drew criticism from the country's magistrates and centre-left politicians over his remarks defending bribery.

"Bribes are a phenomenon that exists, you cannot deny the need for them when you negotiate with third world countries or in some regimes," Berlusconi said on Italian public broadcaster Rai.

Berlusconi's comments were "extremely serious, and unacceptable", said Rodolfo Sabelli, president of Italy's association of magistrates.

The chief whip for Italy's largest centre-left Democrat Party, Dario Franceschini, said Berlusconi's remarks were "astounding" and "set a bad example".

Besides the corruption probe into Finmeccanica, prosecutors have also launched investigations against the head of energy company ENI over deals in Algeria.

Both ENI chief Paolo Scaroni and Orsi were appointed during Berlusconi's time in office.

The billionaire media magnate-cum-politician 's remarks came amid a graft scandal concerning a 560 million euro deal between Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica and India.

"India is a country outside of the Western hemisphere, it is an absurd form of moralising, you cannot be an entrepreneur in this way," Berlusconi said.

His remarks follow the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi earlier this week on suspicion of paying bribes to Indian officials to secure a 560 million euro ($750 mn) helicopter deal.

Since the Finmeccanica scandal broke, the Indian government has suspended its business with the Italian defence group.



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