Berlusconi charged with corruption

An Italian judge has ordered that Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, stand trial on corruption charges along with British lawyer David Mills.

    The ex-Italian PM allegedly paid kickbacks

    Milan magistrates had accused Berlusconi of paying Mills, the estranged husband of Tessa Jowell, the British culture secretary, a $600,000 kickback for not revealing details of Berlusconi's media empire when he testified in two court cases.
       
    Berlusconi's lawyer confirmed that judge Fabio Paparella had ordered both Berlusconi and Mills to stand trial after preliminary hearings that started earlier this year. With the judge's order the two men were officially charged with corruption.
       
    "They have been ordered to stand trial on corruption charges," lawyer Nicolo Ghedini said on Monday.

    Berlusconi denial

    Both Berlusconi, who has faced a string of court cases, and Mills have denied the public prosecutor's allegations that Berlusconi paid the British lawyer the kickback in 1997.
       
    The alleged crime carries a possible jail sentence of three to eight years. Italy's statute of limitations - reduced under Berlusconi's government before the centre right lost elections in April - means he is unlikely to be prosecuted on this count if the case stretches to 2008.
       
    Mediaset, the publishing and broadcasting empire owned by the former prime minister's family, had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Mills were not immediately available.
       
    Berlusconi and Mills are already standing trial with 12 others in a related case over allegations of fraud at Mediaset.
       
    Prosecutors in that case suspect a US firm sold television and cinema rights to two offshore firms controlled by Berlusconi family holding company Fininvest, which then allegedly sold them at inflated prices to Mediaset, avoiding Italian taxes.
       
    Berlusconi has faced several legal cases since he entered politics in 1994.
       
    He has been fully acquitted in two, and in the others Italy's statute of limitations has kicked in.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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