Mediaset boss will not seek to be Italo premier again

ROME — As Silvio Berlusconi faced his ninth trial Tuesday on charges of financial wrongdoing in connection with his Mediaset TV empire, Italy’s media mogul and former prime minister was quoted as saying he will not seek to run the country again.

“We will certainly return to running the government,” conservative newspaper Libero said Berlusconi told a group of close associates.

“But one thing I can already tell you: Whatever happens, I will not go back to Palazzo Chigi,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying, referring to the prime minister’s office. “I’ve had enough.”

Berlusconi, 70, is leader of Italy’s conservative opposition, which last April lost national elections to a center-left bloc headed by economist Romano Prodi.

Berlusconi’s spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, did not deny the content of the Libero report, but said Berlusconi had not granted the newspaper an interview. The report, widely quoted by Italian media, does not amount to an official announcement that Berlusconi is exiting politics but is a likely indication that he’s mulling the move. He served as Italian prime minister twice, the first time in 1994, the year he entered Italy’s political arena.

Starting in 2001, the TV tycoon-turned-politician headed Italy’s longest postwar government, which lasted five years during which — thanks in part to media legislation passed by his government — Mediaset’s profit margin doubled.

On Tuesday a Milan court opened proceedings against Berlusconi, along with British lawyer David Mills and Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri, among 12 other defendants.

The case revolves around charges that Mediaset falsely declared lower prices than it actually paid for TV rights for Hollywood movies in the early 1990s so it could pay less tax and create an offshore slush fund.

Berlusconi and Mills, who were both absent at the opening day of the trial, deny the charges. It will be months or years before a verdict is reached.

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