I’m sure you’re as impaziente as I am to hear the result of the Italian general election, taking place yesterday and today – for your favourite PEP and mine, lawyer, bass player and cruise ship crooner Silvio Berlusconi, is once again in the running. At 76, when most people of his age would be enjoying a quiet retirement, Silvio is doing what he has always done: dividing his country into those who loathe him and those who love him. Two recent boobs (so to speak): telling reporters at a commemoration event on Holocaust Memorial Day that Mussolini, apart from the fascism stuff, was someone “who, in many other ways, did well”; and promising cash repayments of the Italian equivalent of poll tax [could this be a really audacious laundering scheme?].
This is not a man short on self-esteem: in 2001, he sent every household in Italy a copy of “Una storia italiana” (“An Italian Story”) – a book about himself and his achievements, generously illustrated with photographs taken of his public and private life. The title of this post is a description of Silvio – by Silvio. You can read more of his comments here. (Warning: do not open and read this link while drinking over your keyboard. Seriously.)
Thankfully (if not for the headline-writers) it seems unlikely that Berlusconi will become Italy’s Prime Minister for a fourth time. His TV-based campaign has gone down well in some quarters, and his promises to end austerity and see off the threat of a “German Italy” are being believed by some – he is expected to do well in Lombardy (his own constituency) and Sicily. But once the
show election is over, Silvio will be returning to court on 4 March to stand trial for paying to have sex with an under-age girl. And from an AML perspective, we cannot deny that he – and his family and close associates – might warrant some rather enhanced due diligence. Large fortune? Check. Connections with known organised crime groups? Check. Associated with industries known for high levels of corruption? Check. Previous convictions for tax fraud? Check. Absolutely anything this man says? Check, check and double-check.