Statute of limitations may save mogul

ROME — Silvio Berlusconi’s legal woes worsened on Wednesday when prosecutors requested a five-year jail sentence for the Italo media mogul and former premier on charges of bribing British lawyer David Mills to lie about business practices at his Mediaset broadcaster.

Berlusconi is accused of paying Mills, who is a specialist in offshore tax havens, a $600,000 bribe for providing false testimony in two trials, in 1997 and 1998, about an alleged scheme for Mediaset to evade taxes pertaining to Hollywood movie rights’ deals.

Mills was convicted by a Milan court in 2009 and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail. But an appeals court threw out his corruption case in 2010 due to the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations is also likely to kick-in for Berlusconi in this trial. But a guilty verdict would still be a major blow to his prestige.

“It is certain, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty,” said prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale, who accused Berlusconi’s defence of being entirely “based on false documents.”

Both Berlusconi and Mills deny the charges. Berlusconi’s lawyers, who claim the court is politically biased, have requested the case be moved to another jurisdiction.

A ruling on that is expected Feb. 18.

Berlusconi also faces other ongoing trials on separate tax fraud charges and of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

A new indictment from earlier this month involving wiretaps and leaked information to allegedly damage a political opponent is due to go on trial on March 15.

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