Monday, October 30, 2006

italian court orders berlusconi to stand trial

italian court orders berlusconi to stand trialfrom cbc: An Italian court on Monday ordered former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and a British lawyer to stand trial on charges of corruption.

Berlusconi, who was defeated in an April election, is accused of channelling at least $700,000 to lawyer David Mills nine years ago.

Italian prosecutors allege that in exchange for the money, Mills provided false testimony during trials in 1997 and 1998 related to Berlusconi's company Mediaset SPA.

Milan Judge Fabio Paparella ordered the men to separately stand trial on charges of false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud in the purchase by Berlusconi's Mediaset SPA empire of TV rights for U.S. movies.

Paparella issued the ruling after refusing a defence motion to remove him from the case.

If convicted, each man could spend between three and eight years in prison.

Berlusconi, who is Italy's richest man, has faced previous corruption charges but has never been convicted.

In late 2004, he was acquitted on charges of trying to bribe judges while attempting to block a rival businessman's takeover of the state-owned SME food group in the 1980s.

The trial, which spanned about a decade, was temporarily halted after Berlusconi's Forza Italia party changed the law to grant Italy's top five political officeholders immunity from prosecution.

The constitutional court struck down the law in January of 2004, ruling that all Italians were equal before the law.

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