© Photograph: Remo Casilli/REUTERSFormer Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaking on La7 television, accused Milan courts of 'feminist, communist' bias over his divorce from his second wife, Veronica Lario.
Milan judges reject former prime minister's 'persecution' claim over €36m alimony settlement to ex-wife Veronica Lario.

Senior judges in Milan issued a stern rebuke to Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday after the former Italian prime minister tried to blame his huge alimony payments on the biased views of "feminist, communist" magistrates.

In the latest skirmish between the billionaire media magnate and the judiciary, the heads of the Milan tribunal and court of appeal issued a curt statement saying they "firmly rejected any insinuation of partiality" on the part of the magistrates who drew up the three-time premier's divorce settlement, which he claims amounts to €200,000 (£163,000) a day.

Livia Pomodoro and Giovanni Canzio added that their colleagues were "diligent professionals", and called on politicians to avoid making "any expression of derision" that could cause the public to think otherwise.

The retort followed the latest in a succession of lengthy television interviews with Berlusconi, 76, which have become a fixture of Italian politics in the run-up to next month's elections.

Questioned on the La7 private television network about his divorce from his second wife, former actor Veronica Lario, Berlusconi said the settlement amounted to €36m a year with €72m in arrears. He also said it meant paying Lario €200,000 a day, although it was unclear how he had calculated that figure.

He added: "These are three women judges, feminists and communists, OK? These are the Milan judges who have persecuted me since 1994."

The claim that he is the victim of a vindictive, leftwing judiciary has been a key part of Berlusconi's political persona ever since he first came to power in the mid-1990s. When he was found guilty of tax fraud by a Milan court last year and sentenced to four years in prison, he retorted that the decision was "a political sentence, the way so many other trials invented against me have been political". He is appealing against the verdict.

Berlusconi faces another ruling next month in a case in which he stands accused of paying an underage Moroccan girl, Karima El Mahroug, for sex and abusing his office by intervening to have her released from police custody when she was arrested for theft - allegedly claiming that she was a niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi denies the accusations.

Lario filed for divorce in 2009, when reports of his socialising with younger women emerged in the press. He is now in a serious relationship with a 27-year-old former television show dancer, Francesca Pascale.