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Europe

Berlusconi to explain corruption charges

Latest update : 2009-05-19

Italian PM Silvio Belusconi said he will adress the parliament on the corruption charges held against him. Last February, his British lawyer David Mills was found guilty of taking bribes from Berlusconi for a false testimony.

REUTERS - A British lawyer convicted of taking a $600,000 bribe in 1997 from Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's current prime minister, lied to protect him and his Fininvest holding group, a court sentencing document said on Tuesday.

Lawyer David Mills was sentenced in February to four years and six months in prison after taking a bribe from Berlusconi, proposition leader at the time, but now prime minister after being elected to a third term last year.

Berlusconi, who currently has immunity in the case, had been charged with paying Mills the bribe from alleged "secret funds" held by his Mediaset company -- Italy's largest private broadcaster -- to withhold incriminating details about his business dealings.

The court said Mills acted as a false witness to allow Berlusconi and Fininvest to escape charges and keep the huge profits made through illicit business operations.

Berlusconi told reporters the sentence was "simply scandalous" and that he would address the issue in parliament.

"It is a simply scandalous sentence, contrary to reality as I am absolutely sure will be acknowledged on appeal," he said.

"I said this morning I would address the issue in parliament and as soon as I have time. There, I will finally say what I've long thought about certain magistrates."

Court sentencing statements in Italy are often released long after sentences are made public.

Mills, who said he would appeal the sentence, was also pursuing his own financial interests, the court said.

In July last year Berlusconi's government introduced the law which gave him immunity while in office. Its validity is currently being decided by Italy's Constitutional Court.

Berlusconi had complained he was subjected to around 2,500 hearings, hundreds of visits by the police and millions of euros in legal fees during his political career. In every case Berlusconi has either been acquitted or the case has run out of time.

Date created : 2009-05-19

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