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Italian Court Dismisses Bribery Case Against Berlusconi

2/26/2012 12:37 AM ET

A court in Milan, Italy threw out a bribery charges trial against former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, ruling that the statute of limitations is applicable in the case. Berlusconi was charged with paying bribe to a British citizen for giving false evidence in court to safeguard his interests.

The former premier had consistently denied any wrong-doing in the case dating back to 1994, while prosecutors sought a five-year jail term for him which involved British tax lawyer David Mills.

The case revolves around Berlusconi when he was accused of bribing Mills, who is also the estranged husband of Britain's former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell. Mills is said to have received at least $600,000 from Berlusconi in 1994 for giving false evidence in two corruption trials against him.

Though not on trial, Mills denied having received any such payment from the flamboyant former prime minister. In December, Mills told the court he was deeply ashamed of having falsely stated to have received the money from Berlusconi.

Mills was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail in February 2009 for accepting the bribe, but was acquitted by Italy's top appeals court in Rome a year later. He too was let off under the statute of limitations.

Berlusconi had always insisted that the charges were trumped up by his opponents in a smear campaign.

Berlusconi is also on trial separately on charges of tax fraud and sex with an underage dancer. He is on trial in three cases, including two on corruption and tax fraud charges. In one, he is accused of tax evasion and false accounting related to the purchase of TV and film rights in the United States by one of his companies, Mediaset, in the late 1990s.

Perhaps, the most damaging charge pressed against Berlusconi is the one linked to underage Moroccan night club dancer Karima el Mahroug. He is purported to have paid for sex with the nightclub dancer, popularly known as Ruby. He is also accused of abusing his power to conceal the liaison by getting her freed from police custody in 2010.

Berlusconi has denied any wrong-doings in all the four cases. He insists charges against him are politically-motivated, initiated by biased left-wing magistrates in Milan.

by RTT Staff Writer

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