Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Lebanon extradited to Italy on Friday a 72-year old ally of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who is wanted by Rome over mafia links, airport officials said.

Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, who was arrested in Beirut in mid-April on an Interpol warrant, landed in Rome’s Fiumicino airport and was handed over to police, the officials said.

Italian media said he was transferred by ambulance to the capital’s Rebibbia prison.

Italian media reports also said Dell’Utri, who had claimed he was in the Lebanese capital for health treatment, is expected to be transferred soon to Parma prison, known for its first-class medical facilities.

Italy’s top court in May upheld a seven-year sentence against Dell’Utri, who was convicted of serving as a mediator between Berlusconi and the Sicilian mafia.

He led the advertising arm of Berlusconi’s media business empire, and helped the billionaire’s political debut with the foundation of the Forza Italia (Go Italy) party in the early 1990s.

Berlusconi himself began community service in Italy on May 9 for tax fraud, marking a spectacular fall from grace.

The legal demise of both the ex-premier and Dell’Utri is seen as part of a slow-moving disintegration of Berlusconi as a political force, with his Forza Italia party divided by bickering and legal trouble.

Both Berlusconi and Dell’Utri accuse left-wing magistrates of persecution.