Written by Gareth Carpenter
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Thursday, 1 January 2004

image for Berlusconi backs Parmalat "heroes"
Berlusconi crying over spilt milk

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has rushed to the defence of top Parmalat officials arrested for multi-billion euro fraud, describing them as "national heroes".

Instead, Berlusconi firmly laid the blame at the door of Italian farmers to whom the stricken dairy products company now owes 120m euros.

"I'm sure they've been sneaking out wads of cash through the Parmalat gates in their filthy, stinking tractors," he said.

Berlusconi has announced a national day of mourning for former Parmalat boss Calisto Tanzi and chief financial officers Fausto Tonna and Luciano Del Soldato who were detained by police after 10bn euros went missing at the company.

"I will do everything in my power to get these men released," promised Berlusconi. "I just need a bit of time to install a crooked judge and bribe a few witnesses."

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