Politics


Italy: Berlusconi's British lawyer 'covered for him'




Rome, 21 April (AKI) - Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's British lawyer David Mills covered for the billionaire politician during two tax fraud trials in the late 1990, Italy's top appeals court said on Wednesday.

The Court of Cassation issued a written explanation of its verdict in February which said a corruption case against Mills (photo) should be dropped under Italy’s statute of limitations because too much time had elapsed since Berlusconi allegedly paid him a 390,000 pound (436,900 euro) bribe.

The court explained it had accepted the findings of a Milan appeals court verdict last October that confirmed a lower court's jail term of four and a half years for the lawyer for giving false testimony in exchange for the bribe.

The court said Mills testified that offshore slush companies could be traced back "generically" to the prime minister's holding company Fininvest and not to Berlusconi personally.

"The key point of David Mills' reticence consists of the fact that he only traced the ownership of the offshore companies to Fininvest generically, and not to Silvio Berlusconi personally, thus favouring him," the court wrote.

"This was necessary to personally distance Silvio Berlusconi from the companies in order to dodge taxes and anti-trust norms, also permitting (Fininvest) companies to hold on to huge profits illegally obtained abroad".

Part of the profits went to Berlusconi's eldest children, Marina - now Fininvest chairman - and Pier Silvio Berlusconi - now vice-president of his Mediaset TV empire.

The court said Berlusconi was the source of the bribe paid to Mills, which had gone through an account held by Renault's disgraced former Formula 1 boss Flavio Briatore, a friend of Berlusconi's.

Berlusconi and his children have consistently denied wrongdoing.

The court said the Milan appeals court was right to fine Mills 250,000 euros last October 'for damaging the image of Italy's government and judicial system.

Berlusconi is currently on trial in Milan for bribing Mills and in a second case in which he is charged with tax fraud and false accounting related to Mediaset's purchase of television rights in the United States.

Milan prosecutors earlier this month filed a request for Berlusconi to stand trial on tax fraud and embezzlement charges involving his Mediaset media company's Mediatrade unit.

In this third case, prosecutors are also seeking the indictment of Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Fininvest chief executive Fedele Confalonieri and nine other people.




 

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