Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended the need for bribery in winning contracts for Italy’s multinationals, as politicians campaigning in general elections have been forced to respond to a welter of corruption scandals revolving around the nexus of politics and business.
“Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations when you are negotiating with third world countries and regimes,” Mr Berlusconi, leader of a centre-right coalition and seeking his fourth stint in office, said on Thursday.
Mr Berlusconi defended Giuseppe Orsi, head of the state-controlled Finmeccanica defence group who was arrested on Tuesday and accused of involvement in bribes paid to Indian government officials to secure a helicopter contract. Mr Orsi, appointed chief executive under the last centre-right government in 2011 and replaced on Wednesday, has denied the accusations.
“These are not crimes,” said Mr Berlusconi, describing payments as “commissions”. He also defended state-controlled energy group Eni, whose chief executive Paolo Scaroni is under investigation for alleged bribes paid by its Saipem subsidiary to win contracts in Algeria. Mr Scaroni denies the allegations.