Berlusconi facing trial over publication of taped talks
Already facing criticism over Italy's financial crisis and engulfed in a sex scandal, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi might face another trial in Milan.
The latest storm surrounding Mr Berlusconi centres on a 2005 banking scandal.
A Milan judge said yesterday Mr Berlusconi had pressured a newspaper, owned by his family, to publish wiretapped conversations that should have remained secret because of an ongoing investigation.
No decision has been made on whether to indict the premier. The final word rests with another magistrate in Milan, and no date on when that decision might come has been set.
But the latest judicial case mounted pressure on a man who already faces four active legal cases and is politically weakened. Mr Berlusconi's supporters called the move further proof Milan magistrates were out to get the prime minister. His lawyer Niccolo Ghedini called the charge "absolutely incredible" in a country where wiretapped conversations were constantly leaked and published in the media.
The premier is facing three separate trials on charges including corruption, tax fraud and accusations that he paid for sex with a minor. The sex trial resumes next month. A fourth case is at a preliminary phase.
Mr Berlusconi (74) has always denied wrongdoing and insisted he is the victim of politically driven magistrates intent on ousting him from power.
At the time of the scandal, Italian newspaper 'Il Giornale', owned by Mr Berlusconi's family, published a conversation between a bank official and a political rival of Mr Berlusconi.
In a separate case, prosecutors in Bari said yesterday that they had concluded an investigation into the activities of a businessman who allegedly recruited prostitutes and other women to attend parties at Mr Berlusconi's residences.
The businessman, Giampaolo Tarantini, has said he paid the women so he could win favour with the premier in hopes of improving his unrelated business dealings.
He has insisted Mr Berlusconi didn't pay the women and didn't know that he did. Mr Tarantini is under investigation for allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution.
Mr Berlusconi is not under investigation in the case. But the probe has proved embarrassing for the premier.
Mr Tarantini is also under investigation for allegedly extorting money from Mr Berlusconi in exchange for Mr Tarantini's co-operation in the probe over recruiting prostitutes.