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Tycoon’s tax tussle

Prosecutors push fraud charge vs. Berlusconi

ROME — Milan prosecutors on Tuesday requested the indictment of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a four-year probe into alleged tax fraud and false accounting at the media mogul-turned-politician’s Mediaset TV network.

Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri also could go on trial.

Prosecutors lodged the requests with a judge, claiming two offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi bought TV rights to films from unspecified U.S. movie groups and resold the rights to Mediaset at an inflated price.

The deals — made between 1994 and 1996 — were worth E470 million ($609 million), but were falsely declared to be worth an extra $366 million, according to the prosecution.

Berlusconi, Confalonieri and Mediaset have denied the charges.

The indictment request is the latest in a series of legal woes for Berlusconi, who since becoming a politician in 1994 has stood trial at least seven times on charges of financial wrongdoing but has never been convicted.

Berlusconi often claims he is a victim of political persecution on the part of a leftist judiciary.

The indictments could not come at a worse time.

Last week Berlusconi launched a reshuffled government cabinet following a political crisis triggered by local elections earlier this month in which his center-right coalition took a beating. He faces confidence votes in each house of Parliament on Wednesday and Thursday.

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