Italian Prosecutors Seek 5-Year Prison Term For Berlusconi

Prosecutors in the Italian city of Milan on Wednesday sought a five-year jail term for former premier Silvio Berlusconi in the bribery case involving British tax lawyer David Mills.

"It is certain, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty," prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale told the court on Wednesday. The prosecutor also alleged that Berlusconi's defense in the case was entirely "based on false documents".

Berlusconi is accused of bribing Mills, the estranged husband of Britain's former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, with at least $600,000 in 1994 for giving false evidence in two corruption trials against him. Nevertheless, the former premier has denied the allegation.

Although Mills was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail in February 2009 for accepting the bribe from Berlusconi, the British lawyer was acquitted by Italy's top appeals court in Rome a year later under the statute of limitations.

Mills had testified initially that he got the money from Berlusconi, he later said that the money was given to him by an Italian shipping magnate he did not want to admit dealing with. Mills told the court in December that he was "deeply ashamed" for falsely claiming to have received the money from Berlusconi.

As the case against Mills was overturned under the statute of limitations, experts believe that Berlusconi could also get a similar judgment if his lawyers launch an appeal. Even if the 75-year-old former premier is convicted in the case, he is unlikely to serve any any term because of the lengthy legal process.

Berlusconi is also facing three other separate trials, including two on corruption and tax fraud charges. In one case, Berlusconi is accused of tax evasion and false accounting in connection with the purchase of TV and film rights in the United States by one of his companies, Mediaset, in the late 1990s.

In another, Berlusconi stands accused of paying underage Moroccan night club dancer Karima el Mahroug, better known by her stage name Ruby the heart stealer, for sex and abusing his power to conceal the liaison by getting her freed from police custody in 2010.

Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoings in all the four cases. He insists that the trials progressing against him are part of a politically-motivated witch hunt initiated by biased left-wing magistrates in Milan.

Berlusconi was forced to resign as the Italian Prime Minister last November amidst the sovereign debt crisis as well as corruption and sex scandals involving him. Even before his resignation, Berlusconi's grip on power had weakened due to bitter divisions within his coalition, mainly over scandals and his alleged failure to handle the country's economic crisis.

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