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Milan - A long-time ally of Silvio Berlusconi was declared a fugitive on Friday, days before Italy's highest court hears the final appeal of his conviction for Mafia association.
Italian anti-Mafia investigators said authorities have been unable to locate Marcello Dell'Utri this week in the attempt to execute an arrest warrant that cites him as a flight risk.
Hours after being declared a fugitive, Dell'Utri issued a statement to the ANSA news agency saying that he undergone surgery recently and was under medical care abroad. He added that he had no intention to flee justice.
The statement did not say where he was.
Dell'Utri was an executive in Berlusconi's business empire and a former senator in the ex-premier's conservative movement. The court that convicted him of Mafia association said he had acted as a mediator between Mafia bosses and Berlusconi before the premier entered politics. He faces seven years in prison. The high court hears his last appeal next week.
Dell'Utri denies any ties to the Sicilian Mafia, and any link between the crime syndicate and Berlusconi.