A court in Palermo has convicted eight defendants, including a close associate of Silvio Berlusconi, on charges showing collusion between the Sicilian Mafia and the government during the early 1990s.

Prosecutor Nino Di Matteo said Friday's verdicts demonstrated with "certainty that while in Italy bombs were exploding, in 1992 and 1993, some exponents of the government were negotiating with the Cosa Nostra and transmitting threats of the Cosa Nostra to the government."

He said in particular, the conviction of former Forza Italia Senator Marcello Dell'Ultri made clear that he had transmitted requests between the Mafia and Berlusconi's first government.

That, he said, showed "relations didn't stop with Berlusconi, the entrepreneur, but arrived at Berlusconi, the politician."

The defendants received sentences between eight and 28 years.