Mediaset boss accused of paying bribes to Craxi

ROME — A Milan judge has ordered former Italo prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and British lawyer David Mills to stand trial on corruption charges.

Berlusconi is accused of paying Mills — who is British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell’s estranged husband — a $600,000 kickback in exchange for not revealing to Italian prosecutors details of a web of offshore companies he set up for Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV empire.

Mills was hired in the early 1990s by Mediaset holding company Fininvest to set up offshore companies used for movie rights transactions. A slush fund is said to have been created within these companies from which Berlusconi allegedly made illicit payments to then Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi.

Both men deny the allegations.

The case is the latest in Berlusconi’s long history of legal troubles stemming from Mediaset and Fininvest’s business dealings.

A trial date has been set for March 13, 2007. If convicted, Mills and Berlusconi could be sentenced to between three and eight years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Berlusconi and Mills are also under investigation in a separate case on charges of false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud connected with the offshore accounts.

So far, Berlusconi has stood trial eight times in Italy and been convicted three times before being cleared either on appeal or because of a statute of limitations.

Mills and Jowell separated in March after 27 years of marriage because of questions over Mills’ business dealings.

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