Former studio execs may testify in Berlusconi case

A Milan court is set to call Hollywood studio executives to testify in the trial of Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who is accused of tax fraud in the purchase of film and TV rights.

Judge Edoardo D’Avossa said Monday that former Paramount head of international TV Bruce Gordon and Mark Kaner, former Twentieth Century Fox Intl. Television prexy, are among those who could be asked to testify in the coming months.

Prosecutors allege that Berlusconi siphoned off $400 million from the coffers of his Mediaset TV group by using two offshore companies to buy U.S. TV and movie rights and then resell them to Mediaset at inflated prices.

Resumption of the case that began in 2006 follows the decision of Italy’s supreme court to strike down the law that gave the 73-year-old tycoon immunity from prosecution.

At Monday’s hearing the court denied requests by Berlusconi’s lawyers for the trial to be suspended pending possible legal changes regarding trial duration. Berlusconi is currently planning a new law that would see trials die if not completed within two years, as well as the reintroduction of general parliamentary immunity; both could help him evade prosecution.

On Friday, as expected, a separate trial in which Berlusconi is accused of bribing U.K. lawyer David Mills to lie under oath in relation to the film rights case was suspended until Feb. 27.

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