Legal victory for Berlusconi

Italian court acquits media tycoon

An Italian appeals court on Friday acquitted Silvio Berlusconi in a long-running corruption case accusing the media tycoon and former premier of bribing judges. His legal woes do not end there, however, as a separate bribery case involving Berlusconi and British attorney David Mills continues.

In the older matter, prosecutors wanted a five-year sentence for Berlusconi. He stood accused of bribing judges to stop the sale of an Italian food company to rivals in the 1980s.

The media magnate was first acquitted on the charges in 2004, but prosecutors appealed the decision only to lose in round two Friday for lack of evidence to overturn the initial verdict.

“It was time for justice to be done,” a jubilant Berlusconi told reporters over the weekend. “I have been waiting for 12 years for this moment. I had had enough of it.”

Berlusconi, who so far has stood trial eight times in Italy and been cleared each time on appeal or because the statute of limitations had run out, still faces charges he paid $800,000 to attorney Mills — the estranged husband of British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell — to lie for him about the existence of various offshore companies in previous trials.

Both men are also on trial in a related case centered around Hollywood content deals done by Mediaset through the offshore companies at allegedly inflated prices in order to create a supposed slush fund for Berlusconi.