Italy's prosecutor wraps up fraud probe into Berlusconi

A Milan prosecutor wrapped up an investigation into alleged embezzlement and tax fraud involving Berlusconi.

Italy's prosecutor wraps up fraud probe into Berlusconi

A Milan prosecutor wrapped up an investigation into alleged embezzlement and tax fraud involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday and may ask that he be ordered to stand trial.

The case delves into events before and during 2009 that involve Berlusconi, his media company Mediaset and its controlling company Fininvest, according to a legal document seen by Reuters.

Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri and Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio, its deputy chairman, also were investigated.

Berlusconi already is a defendant in two corruption trials which resumed after a decision by Italy's top court stripped him of his immunity from prosecution while in office.

The Mediaset case focuses on the acquisition of television rights by the company, which the prosecutor says were bought at an inflated price from two offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi.

Frank Agrama, an American TV producer, is among those accused by the Milan magistrates.

The prosecutor says Agrama and Berlusconi acted together to embezzle money from Fininvest and its Mediaset unit, damaging shareholders and evading taxes in both the United States and Italy.

Berlusconi's lead lawyer Niccolo Ghedini rejected the accusations, saying that Milan prosecutors were dead set on persecuting Berlusconi. Ghedini said the prime minister and his son were not responsible for any wrongdoing.

In a separate statement, Mediaset called the accusations "absurd" and maintained that the company's accounting methods were "totally tranparent and legal".

When Italian magistrates end an investigation, the law obliges them to inform the defendants' lawyers, who then have several weeks to rebut accusations.

After hearing both sides, a preliminary investigating magistrate decides whether there is enough evidence to order a trial.

He wants radical changes to speed up the justice system but critics say his real intent is to avoid trials because the changes effectively would cut short the two already in progress.


Reuters


Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2010, 13:36
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