Milan prosecutors on Friday requested that Italian TV-tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and British lawyer David Mills stand trial on corruption charges, stemming from a probe involving the purchase of TV rights to U.S. films by Berlusconi’s Mediaset web.
Berlusconi is accused of paying David Mills — who is British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell’s recently estranged husband — a $600,000 kickback in exchange for not revealing details of Berlusconi’s media empire when he testified in two court cases.
Both men deny the allegations.
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.
The defendants in this separate investigation also deny wrongdoing.
A judge will decide whether Berlusconi and Mills should be charged and go to trial in this case, which could begin in May.
That is right after Italy’s national elections on April 9 and 10. Conservative Berlusconi is trailing in the polls by a narrow margin against the center-left.
Berlusconi has repeatedly accused Milan prosecutors of having a leftist bent and persecuting him politically. 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.
This case has had political repercussions in the U.K. after it emerged that the $600,000 payment to Mills was used to pay the couple’s mortgage, but a government probe has cleared Jowell of breaching the cabinet code of conduct for not declaring the payment.
Mills and Jowell have separated after 27 years of marriage because of questions over Mills’ business dealings.