Wednesday 13 December 2017

Berlusconi must get five years for bribery, court told

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Getty Images
Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Squires in Rome

SILVIO BERLUSCONI should be jailed for five years for allegedly bribing David Mills, his former tax adviser, Italian prosecutors said yesterday.

Mr Berlusconi (75) is accused of paying the estranged husband of the former UK Labour minister Tessa Jowell $600,000 (€456,000) in return for false testimony in court during two trials in the late 1990s.

Mr Berlusconi, who resigned as Italian prime minister last year amid sex scandals and accusations that he had failed to handle the country's economic crisis, denies the charges.

He claims that they are part of a politically-motivated witch-hunt by a biased judiciary.

Fabio De Pasquale, the chief prosecutor in the case, told a court in Milan: "There is certainty, beyond all reasonable doubt, of the guilt of the defendant."

Shield

In 2009, a court in Milan ruled that Mr Mills lied during two trials, in 1997 and 1998, in order to shield Mr Berlusconi and his Fininvest holding company from charges relating to the purchase of US film rights and to "protect Berlusconi's economic interests".

Mr Mills was jailed for four-and-a-half years, but the sentence was overturned in 2010 when Italy's highest court ruled the case had expired under the statute of limitations.

He admitted in a letter in 2004 that he had received the payment from Mr Berlusconi, telling his accountant that he had kept Mr Berlusconi "out of a great deal of trouble". He wrote that while he had not lied in court, he had "turned some very tricky corners" and had received money from "the 'B' people".

Mr Berlusconi is unlikely to serve time behind bars if found guilty because of the time the case has taken.

But a conviction would be a huge blow to his reputation at a time when he has said he wants to act as a "father figure" to his conservative People of Freedom party and help it return to power at elections expected next year.

Even if he avoids prison in the bribery case, observers say a guilty sentence may weaken his rumoured ambitions to run for the presidency in 2013.

Mr Berlusconi, who remained a member of parliament after stepping down in November, is a defendant in four trials for bribery, tax fraud, sex with an under-age prostitute, abuse of power and violating official secrets. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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