Spanish judge gets Berlusconi ball rolling

Silvio under fire for tax evasion, accounting fraud

Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon has taken the first steps in an attempt to indict former Italo prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax evasion and false accounting.

The charges are related to Berlusconi’s ownership of Spanish broadcaster Telecinco from 1990 to 1993 via his TV company Mediaset.

Spanish anti-trust legislation caps the stake at 25%, but Berlusconi has been accused of holding 52% using associates as fronts.

Garzon, an investigating magistrate at Spain Audiencia Nacional — a court with special powers over terrorism, drug and financial crimes — has solicited a report from Spain’s anti-corruption authorities regarding Berlusconi’s alleged immunity from prosecution.

Berlusconi had immunity while he was prime minister. But he lost the election in spring and on July 28 Spain’s Constitutional Court lifted Berlusconi’s immunity against prosecution.

However, Berlusconi’s legal counsel argues that he still has protection from prosecution since he will shortly be appointed to the Assembly Parliament of the Council of Europe.

Garzon has battled for years in vain for the European Parliament to lift Berlusconi’s immunity as a member of the European Parliament.

Berlusconi already faces a trial in Italy, set for November, on charges of fraudulent bookkeeping and other financial wrongdoing involving Hollywood rights deals and an alleged slush fund at his Mediaset TV company.

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