independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Berlusconi fails in bid to postpone tax fraud trial until after election

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he talks during the book launch of his friend, TV presenter Bruno Vespa, in Rome. Photo: Reuters

A MILAN court has rejected a bid by Silvio Berlusconi to suspend a tax fraud trial until after the February 24-25 election.

The 76-year-old former prime minister is appealing against a previous court ruling over the case on October 26, in which he was sentenced to four years in jail.



Berlusconi's lawyers had argued that his position as leader of a coalition running in the election represented a legitimate impediment to his appearing in court in the case involving the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset media group.



His lawyers had also argued that the case would interfere with the electoral campaign. The judges rejected both requests.



The centre-right coalition has not yet chosen a candidate for the premiership and Berlusconi, who was prime minister four times, has said he will not stand again.



Berlusconi is also facing a trial on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and a third trial for allegedly leaking a confidential phone call to the media.



Earlier this week Berlusconi's legal team failed to have the "Ruby" sex trial postponed. A final hearing of the closely watched case is scheduled for February 4, with a verdict likely to come before the vote.



The Mediaset tax fraud appeals trial started today and a verdict is unlikely to come any time soon. The next hearing is scheduled for January 25.



Today Berlusconi had the final hearing of the wiretap trial postponed until after the election.



In the parliamentary campaign, Berlusconi is leading a centre-right coalition polling 26.3pc against a centre-left coalition on 37.5pc.



Press Association

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