Berlusconi postpones message on future after tax conviction

By Barry Moody and Paolo Biondi

ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has postponed until Wednesday an announcement likely to steer away from moves to bring down the government following his tax fraud conviction, political sources said.

The media magnate, known for sudden changes of mood, had been expected to issue a video message to Italians on Tuesday on the resurrection of his original centre-right political party, Forza Italia, or Go Italy.

The party was the vehicle with which Berlusconi, a self-made billionaire, stormed into politics in 1994 after a bribery scandal swept away the old post-war order in Italy.

Political sources said Berlusconi, 76, was expected to step back in his message from weeks of threats to sink the right-left coalition government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta if the Senate votes to expel him from parliament over the conviction.

Sources in Berlusconi's current People of Freedom (PDL) party, which replaced Forza Italia in 2008, said the pre-recorded message would now be transmitted on Wednesday, just before a Senate committee is due to take a preliminary vote.

Some political sources said the master communicator wanted to avoid being upstaged by the successful raising of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner from rocks off the Tuscan coast on Tuesday.

The supreme court handed a new rebuff to Berlusconi on Tuesday, ordering his Fininvest holding company to pay damages of 540 million euros to the CIR firm owned by the family of his arch rival Carlo De Benedetti.

The fine was awarded over a disputed takeover battle for publisher Mondadori. Berlusconi's former lawyer was convicted in 2007 of bribing a judge to rule in favour of Fininvest.

Analysts suggested Berlusconi may want to include the judgement in his message on Wednesday, which will come a few hours before a Senate committee is expected to reject attempts to block his expulsion from parliament over the tax conviction.

Berlusconi supporters railed against the judgement. A close ally, PDL chamber of deputies floor leader Renato Brunetta, said the ruling showed "the recurrent surgical timing" with which leftist judges sabotaged Berlusconi.

Berlusconi appears to be using the revival of Forza Italia to regain the political initiative following his conviction for a giant fraud at his Mediaset television empire, for which he faces either a year's house arrest or community service.

CONCILIATORY LINE

If he sticks to a conciliatory line on Wednesday, it will signal the victory of party doves and business advisors who have tried to undermine the efforts of hawkish Berlusconi supporters to push him towards forcing snap elections.

Il Giornale newspaper, run by Berlusconi's brother, suggested the tycoon was taking a more conciliatory line towards Letta's government, an uneasy coalition of the PDL and the premier's centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Libero, another daily close to Berlusconi, said he would announce that "as far as he is concerned the government can continue".

After weeks of debate, party doves, relatives and leaders of his business empire have apparently persuaded him that torpedoing the government in the midst of Italy's worst post-war recession would misfire for the centre-right.

A source close to Berlusconi said some of his oldest advisers, including veteran political consigliere Gianni Letta and close business aides, were united in advising him not to provoke a crisis that would severely damage his media empire.

His eldest child Marina, 47, was also pushing to avert a crisis which could misfire for Berlusconi and the $6.6 billion business empire she now heads. Of his five children from two marriages, only Pier Silvio, his 44-year-old son, was supporting the position of the hawks, the source said.

European economics commissioner Olli Rehn told Italy's parliament on Tuesday that continuous threats to torpedo Letta's government were holding back vital investments.

(Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Angus MacSwan and Paul Taylor)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Moores set for England recall

Moores set for England recall

The 51-year-old will succeed Andy Flower, who stepped down after five years in charge following the 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia in January. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »