Italian Financier Draws Eight Years in Kickback Scandal
MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Financier Sergio Cusani, accused of engineering Italy’s major kickback scandal, was convicted Thursday night and sentenced to eight years in jail after his six-month trial unveiled corruption in national politics and business.
The jury deliberated one floor above as police evacuated the third floor of the Milan court following discovery of a hand grenade in an abandoned bag in the courtroom of Cusani’s trial.
Prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro, who became a national hero fighting corruption, later said the grenade was inactive - ″one of the many threats.″ Di Pietro has been the leading investigator in probes throughout Italy uncovering huge kickbacks to political parties to smooth the way for business deals. He has long had an armed escort after repeated threats.
Following 12 hours of deliberations, court president Giuseppe Tarantola read the verdict convicting Cusani, 45, of violating party funding laws and falsifying balance sheets in connection with $92 million in purported kickbacks.
The kickbacks trail touched all main political parties and weaved through secret accounts and even the Vatican bank, where Cusani was said to have deposited some of the money. The political center was routed in elections last month as a result of the scandals, and a right-wing coalition took power.
Somewhat unexpectedly late Thursday, Cusani was given one year more than the seven years imprisonment requested by Di Pietro.
Cusani showed no visible reaction. His lawyer, Giuliano Spazzali, announced he will appeal the sentence, which includes a $10,000 fine. Cusani spent five months in jail before being tried, and will remain free while his appeal is pending.
Dozens of people forced to leave the courtroom following the grenade threat were allowed back for the reading of the verdict.
Cusani, accused of being the pointman for huge kickbacks, had pleaded innocent.
The prosecution said Cusani’s payoffs were meant to smooth the path for the 1990 merger - then quick spinoff - of a chemical subsidiary of the Ferruzzi conglomerate and the state energy company ENI.
Bettino Craxi, a former premier and Socialist Party secretary, was among dozens of prominent politicians and businessmen who took the witness stand in the trial that Di Pietro called ″the mother of all kickback trials.″