Berlusconi associate Dell'Utri arrested in Lebanon

Former senator Marcello Dell'Utri listens as his lawyers address the court during his appeal trial , in December 2009 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Dell'Utri's legal fight has been running for years

A close associate of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been arrested in Lebanon.

Marcello Dell'Utri is a life-long friend of Mr Berlusconi and was once one of his closest advisors.

Declared a fugitive, he was arrested in Beirut just days before a definitive verdict in his long-running trial.

A lower court earlier decided he was guilty of having liaised between a Sicilian Mafia boss and Silvio Berlusconi.

If Italy's highest court, hearing his final appeal, upholds that conviction, he could face seven years in jail.

The offence is alleged to have happened before Mr Berlusconi entered politics.

Both men deny having had any dealings with the Mafia and Mr Berlusconi has not been tried in connection with the affair.

Mr Dell'Utri was declared a fugitive on Friday, after the authorities could find no trace of him. He later issued a statement saying he was abroad for medical treatment, but did not say where.

Senior Italian officials say Mr Dell'Utri is in police custody and that Italy will seek his extradition.

He was an executive in Berlusconi's media empire and then a senator in his conservative movement.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Berlusconi was not charged in the case, although he was convicted of tax fraud in another

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