Unipol trial delayed to after Italy's general election

Next hearing on March 7, request made by Berlusconi lawyers

Unipol trial delayed to after Italy's general election

Milan, January 17 - Milan judges agreed to suspend Thursday's hearing in a trial which sees former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi accused of being involved in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap until after the February general election. The judges agreed to a request made by Berlusconi's lawyers to delay the trial until after the February 24-25 vote, and scheduled the next hearing on March 7. The wiretap which was published in Berlusconi's brother Paolo's conservative newspaper Il Giornale concerned a conversation in 2005 between one of Berlusconi's political opponents, Piero Fassino, the then head of the then centre-left Democratic Left (DS) party, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, an association of insurers historically linked to the DS, the heir to Italy's Communist Party. At the time Unipol came close to taking over one of Italy's leading banks, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, and Fassino was recorded as celebrating, saying ''we have a bank''. The statement angered the DS's rank-and-file and embarrassed Fassino, who was forced to downplay his recorded enthusiasm for a coup in a sector regarded with suspicion by traditional DS supporters. The verdict for the trial had originally been expected this month. Earlier this week Milan judges rejected Berlusconi's plea to suspend till after the elections a trial where he is accused of paying an underage prostitute called Ruby for sex and using his position to try to hush it up.

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