Bank loans taken out by the party are guaranteed by billionaire Berlusconi to the tune of €103 million, an investigation by newspaper Libero Quotidiano has found.
Forza Italia, the precursor to Berluconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, was resurrected in September by the party leader in what was seen as a move to boost popularity.
Berlusconi also donated €15 million to Forza Italia in February and two months later gave the party a €2.8 million interest-free loan, Libero Quotidiano said.
Comparatively, 21 percent of MPs and MEPs have never donated money to the PdL, now Forza Italia.
If Berlusconi were to withdraw from the party and take his financial support with him, the unmanageable burden would fall on his successor.
The findings dispel reports that Berlusconi is soon to be replaced as party leader after he unsuccessfully tried to withdraw his ministers from the coalition government.
At the end of September, Berlusconi announced he was withdrawing his support for the government, forcing his party ministers to tender their resignation and prompting a confidence vote of the coalition in parliament. But the plan swiftly backfired as the government gained overwhelming support.
Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, seen as Berlusconi’s protégé, spoke in support of the government and rumours quickly circulated that he would either form a breakaway political group or oust Berlusconi as party leader.
But despite Berlusconi’s financial clout, his political power may soon be curtailed as he faces a vote to determine whether he should be thrown out of the Senate for a tax fraud conviction.
Responding to the August 1st conviction, Berlusconi, however, said he could still be influential in politics while being banned from public office.