An open letter to Silvio Berlusconi
Jul 30th 2003

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Silvio Berlusconi
Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri
Palazzo Chigi
370 Piazza Colonna
Rome 00187

July 30th 2003

Dear Mr Berlusconi,

I am writing to you to pose questions that I believe the public has a right to hear the answers to. As this can no longer occur through the Italian courts, such questions should be posed and answered in public.

On June 18th, the Italian parliament approved a bill to grant immunity from criminal trials to the holders of the five highest offices of state, including the president and prime minister. It is now a law. The law applies even if a trial started before the office-holder was elected. The new law’s most immediate effect is that the one remaining criminal trial in which you are involved —the SME case, in which you are accused of bribing judges—has been suspended until you are no longer prime minister. Even then, the trial will start again only if you were not elected to one of the other offices that benefits from the immunity. But the law is being challenged in the constitutional court.

On April 28th 2001, we published a cover story entitled “Why Silvio Berlusconi is unfit to lead Italy” and a four-page investigation “An Italian story”. We sent you a letter on April 11th 2001, containing 51 questions, that stated: “The Economist intends to publish shortly a feature on your business career and on the various investigations into you and your companies that have been carried out by the Italian magistracy during the last seven years”. You did not reply.

On May 2nd 2001, you filed a writ for defamation against The Economist in the Rome court. As you will know, this court has not yet ruled on your suit.

In light of the above, we are writing to you by way of open letter and challenge you to answer our further set of questions in a similar open, public fashion. Our letter comprises six sections as follows:

1. The SME affair

2. Your spontaneous declarations

3. The smearing of Romano Prodi

4. Your gold medal claim

5. Your other trials

6. Your early business career


We look forward to your reply

Yours sincerely

Bill Emmott


The Economist

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