Berlusconi and Putin: a close—and financially rewarding?—friendship

WikiLeaks cables say the Italian leader profited from secret deals with Russia

According to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, U.S. diplomats suspect Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi could be “profiting personally and handsomely” from secret deals with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. This “financially enriching relationship” has been observed by members of Berlusconi’s political party and from the hostile government of Georgia, according to the cables. American embassy staff outlined allegations that Berlusconi had been promised a cut of huge energy contracts, and that the prime minister had taken a “single-handed” control of Italy’s dealings with Moscow, with the main goal of pleasing the Russian leader. Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department in Washington sent a special request to the Rome embassy this year, asking for extra intelligence-gathering on the allegations about the men. The cables said the personal ties between the two were close, “with Putin’s family spending long visits at the Berlusconi family mansion in Sardinia at Berlusconi’s expense.” A contact in Berlusconi’s office told the embassy of “exchanges of lavish gifts.” In January 2009, the U.S. ambassador in Rome wrote that it was “hard to determine” the basis of the Berlusconi-Putin friendship. “Berlusconi admires Putin’s macho, decisive and authoritarian governing style, which the Italian PM believes matches his own.” However, “contacts in both the opposition centre-left Partito Democratico and Berlusconi’s own PdL party have hinted at a more nefarious connection. They believe that Berlusconi and his cronies are profiting personally and handsomely from many of the energy deals between Italy and Russia.”

The Guardian

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