Silvio Berlusconi is back on trial as yesterday afternoon Milan’s court announced restart of a fraud trial that had been suspended last April.
Mr Berlusconi is accused of fraud in a trial concerning illegal purchase of TV rights by his family’s company Mediaset. The first session is scheduled for 28 February.
According to prosecutors, Berlusconi’s company has illegally purchased TV rights from the USA. Financial transactions were carried out through several off-shore companies controlled by Mr Berlusconi.
Apparently, after TV rights had been transferred to each company by means of fictitious sales, Mediaset paid higher prices for them. This mechanism eventually ensured accumulation of slush funds in Berlusconi’s bank accounts.
Mr Berlusconi is accused of illegal transactions over a 4-year-period to 2003. Previous accusations had also involved illegal purchase of TV rights between 1988 and 1999. However, a law passed by Berlusconi’s own government in 2005 halved prescription limits of those offences he had been accused of. As a consequence, Berlusconi’s trial on a fraud worth 120 billion lire (60 million euros) was cancelled.
The trial had been suspended last April after Berlusconi’s government passed a law granting members of government immunity from prosecution.
Last 13 January a Constitutional Court meeting stated that the law was partially unconstitutional. As a consequence, three trials involving Silvio Berlusconi (among them, the Mediaset trial) restarted.
The so-called legitimate impediment law had prevented magistrates from deciding whether motivations for Berlusconi’s absence in court were reasonable or not.
Mr Berlusconi has still the right to present legitimate impediments. However, the Constitutional Court stated that magistrates have now the power to assess their nature.
According to Italian national newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Berlusconi will also have to present his impediments in great advance.
11 more people are involved in the trial. Among them, Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri.