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Berlusconi cleared in fraud and embezzlement trial

The embattled Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has achieved a rare legal victory in a fraud and embezzlement case on Tuesday. In the first of three trials, his family-run private broadcaster Mediaset has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

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REUTERS - A Milan judge on Tuesday cleared Silvio Berlusconi in a fraud and embezzlement case related to his private broadcaster Mediaset , a rare legal victory for the weakened Italian prime minister who is a defendant in three other trials.

The judge ordered Berlusconi’s son Pier Silvio and Fedele Confalonieri, respectively the deputy chairman and chairman of Mediaset, to stand trial in the same case, which has been dubbed the “Mediatrade” case.

“We had always said that there was no wrongdoing and that Berlusconi had nothing to do with this,” the premier’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said.

“It’s a fairly rare decision ... but nonetheless we still think Berlusconi is being hounded by the Milan judges.”

The case centres on accusations that Mediaset acquired television rights at inflated prices in deals prosecutors allege resulted in embezzlement of 35 million euros and an 8 million euro tax fraud.

Berlusconi still faces two separate corruption and tax fraud court cases linked to his business empire, and a third trial where he is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power to cover it up.

Berlusconi denies all charges and accuses Milan prosecutors of waging a politically-motivated campaign to oust him from power.

The prosecutors in the Mediatrade case will appeal against the decision to clear Berlusconi, judicial sources said.

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