Berlusconi denies saying bribes part of overseas business

Corruption 'must be avoided', ex-premier says

Berlusconi denies saying bribes part of overseas business

Rome, February 15 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday denied saying companies budgeted for bribes as a standard practice to land international contracts. "I never used the word bribes," Berlusconi said a day after his reported comments on deal sweeteners sparked a firestorm of criticism amid a probe into alleged corruption in an Indian 12-helicopter contract with Italian defence giant Finmeccanica. Bribes "are a crime and must be avoided," he said, while reiterating that the competitors of Finmeccanica and fuels group Eni were "rubbing their hands with glee" because of Italian prosecutors' probes into alleged kickbacks. The ex-premier has contended that prosecutors are "killing" Italian business with their probes. The row continued Friday with outgoing Premier Mario Monti claiming Italy had fallen into "ridicule" under Berlusconi and citing his predecessor's failure to pass an anti-corruption law. Monti also called Berlusconi a "buffoon" for claiming he had left Italy in good financial order when he was forced to stand down in favour of the former European commissioner at the height of the euro crisis in November 2011. photo: Berlusconi wih girlfriend Francesca Pascale

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