(dpa) - A close aide to Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi has been linked to an alleged attempt to rig votes in Italy's general elections, news reports said Saturday.
Marcello Dell'Utri allegedly discussed the possibility of tampering 50,000 ballots to favour Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party, according to the reports citing a dossier submitted to Italy's interior minister.
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato on Friday confirmed he received the dossier from prosecutors in the southern city of Reggio Calabria.
But the minister declined to provide further details to reporters saying the matter was covered by "judicial secrecy"
The dossier contains transcripts of intercepted telephone calls between Dell'Utri and an Italian businessman residing in Venezuela who allegedly mentions bribing Italian consulate officials to turn a blind eye while unmarked ballots destined to be used by Italians living abroad are tampered with, the news reports said.
The business man, Aldo Micciche told Dell'Utri that the ballots could be rigged in exchange for a sum of 200,000 euros, according to the daily Corriere della Sera citing the prosecutor's dossier. Italians authorities suspect Micciche has ties with the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia, the Milan-based daily said.
Dell'Utri who is running as a People of Freedom candidate for the upper house of parliament Senate has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
"Lies. Rubbish. It is absurd that my name is mentioned but that no one notified me of anything, nor informed me either in an official or unofficial manner," Dell'Utri told Corriere della Sera in an interview.
Dell'Utri admitted being in contact with Micciche but only as a go-between for an oil deal involving the Venezuelan-based business man and Russian investors.
Dell'Utri was sentenced in 2004 to nine years' imprisonment for complicity with the Sicilian Mafia. He is appealing against the conviction.
Berlusconi has repeatedly claimed that his adversaries are planning to steal away victory from his centre-right People of Freedom party in this weekend's vote, which he expects to win.
He has not provided any evidence to back his claims.