ROME, April 24 (UPI) -- Panama's security minister denied the country's government was involved in corrupt contracts with an associate of ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The Berlusconi associate, Valter Lavitola, returned to Italy last week after living more than six months in South America as a fugitive from Italian authorities, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.
Lavitola is being investigated for his links to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and his government concerning contracts for construction of prisons in Panama.
Jose Raul Mulino, the Panama security minister, said Tuesday in Rome: "There was no corruption, neither with contracts nor with prison construction. And there was not any involvement or criminal intent on the part of our officials."
Mulino also denied Lavitola, acting as an alleged middleman for Italian defense company Fineccanica, "could have offered bribes or a helicopter, as it's been said, as a gift to Martinelli."
Prosecutors say Lavitola -- a former editor of the daily newspaper L'Avanti! -- also bribed a witness to lie about Berlusconi's alleged sex parties.