Ex-MP likely to stay in custody in Lebanon

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Marcello Dell’Utri was arrested in Lebanon on Saturday. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP
16:18 CEST+02:00
A former Italian senator, who was arrested in Lebanon on Saturday after allegedly fleeing Italy ahead of a mafia ruling, is likely to remain in custody there until Italy makes an extradition request.

Marcello Dell'Utri, a friend of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, left Italy for Lebanon a day after a warrant for his arrest was issued.

The 72-year-old was set to discover on April 15th whether Italy’s highest appeals court would uphold a seven year jail term for collusion with the mafia in a case that has dragged on for two decades.

He is also accused of sealing a “pact of protection” with the notorious crime network on behalf of Berlusconi.

Dell’Utri will only face a hearing in Lebanon once an extradition request has been made, La Repubblica reported on Monday.

The Italian authorities have 30 days to make the request.

“Until I receive the extradition request, I am not obliged to see him for a hearing,” Samir Hammoud, the attorney general of Lebanon’s Supreme Court, was quoted in the newspaper as saying.

“Once I receive the request from Italy, I will study it and question Dell’Ultri. I will then present a report to the minister of justice with an opinion for or against the request.”

A final decision would then be made, with an order that must be signed by the justice minister as well as Lebanon’s prime minister and president, Hammoud added.

Dell'Utri himself had issued a statement on Friday in which he did not reveal where he was but said that he had "no intention" of escaping arrest and was undergoing medical checks because of poor health.

His disappearance had caused outrage in the political world, with far-leftist and former prosecutor Ignazio Ingroia saying that "allowing Dell'Utri to flee abroad was shameful and indecent for a civilised country".

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Prosecutors said they ordered his arrest because Dell'Utri, who has been a free man despite his trials, was only recently considered a flight risk.

Dell'Utri headed up the advertising arm of Berlusconi's media business empire and helped his political debut with the foundation of the Forza Italia (Go Italy) party in the early 1990s.

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