There is a famous saying among defense attorneys: when the facts are against you argue the law; when the law is against you, argue the facts; when both the facts and the law are against you, yell! That’s what we’re seeing after the conviction of Berlusconi in his tax fraud case: much yelling, as a kind of diversionary tactic. The latest is an attack on Judge Antonio Esposito, of the Italy’s highest court, the Cassazione, for a few words (possibly not said) in an interview he gave to the Neapolitan newspaper, Il Mattino, to the effect that Berlusconi could not have known about the diversion of hundreds of dollars from his company into his own personal account. The words were not in a text of the interview which Esposito approved and the journalist was someone he knew and trusted. Perhaps he said them off the record and the journalist, going against his agreement, betrayed the agreement in order to produce a scoop. This allows the Berlusconi forces to change the subject and talk about the “Esposito case,” and not about the 270 million euros diverted from Mediaset treasury, hidden from Italian tax returns and set aside for Berlusconi’s personal use – facts that were proven in three different trials and upheld at every level of justice.
Sadly, the case is eerily reminiscent of a similar case at the beginning of Berlusconi’s political career, back in 1994, when evidence began emerging (later confirmed in other court cases) of the longstanding ties between Berlusconi’s close friend and campaign manager Marcello Dell’Utri and various powerful members of the Sicilian mafia. Then, to the rescue came an interview in La Stampa, in which a journalist extracted a couple of incautious words from Luciano Violante (then the persident of the antimafia commission) about the case and suddenly the “Caso Dell’Utri” became the Caso Violante. Berlusconi’s relations with organized crime ceased to be an issue and he won the election. Interestingly, the journalist was Augusto Minzolini, who suddenly found much fame and fortune through Berlusconi patronage: generous contracts with Berlusconi media, the direction of TG1 and now TG5. The facts change but the method is always the same: use media and money to change reality.