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ROME (AP) _ Premier Silvio Berlusconi has sued the authors of a best-selling book about the origins of his fortune for $9.7 million, news reports said Tuesday.

Authors Marco Travaglio and Elio Veltri and their publisher were named in a lawsuit they received notice of Tuesday _ more than a year after ``The Smell of Money'' was first published, the ANSA news agency said.

The book, which alleges Berlusconi's empire was founded on mob money, had languished on bookshelves until Travaglio appeared on a TV talk show in the middle of last year's national election campaign.

The book became an instant best-seller.

Soon after the broadcast, Berlusconi, his holding company Fininvest, his broadcaster Mediaset and his political party sued Travaglio, the TV host and the director of the state TV station RAI2 for about $9 million.

On Tuesday, the authors and the book's publisher were slapped with a different suit purely concerning the contents of ``The Smell of Money,'' ANSA said.

ANSA quoted Berlusconi's lawyer Fabio Lepri as saying the book was a ``summary of false and delirious inferences'' that the authors recycled for the purpose of damaging Berlusconi, then a candidate for the premiership.

The suit is seeking $9.7 million in ``moral'' damages and punitive damages at the discretion of the judge, ANSA said.

Calls to the office of Berlusconi's spokesman went unanswered.

Berlusconi is Italy's richest man. Before taking office for the first time in 1994, he parlayed real estate developments in Milan into a media, sports and business empire worth $7.2 billion.

Travaglio, a journalist with the left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, told ANSA that his book merely reproduced official documents.