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Former Italy PM Berlusconi faces corruption trial

[JURIST] An Italian court on Monday ordered former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and British corporate lawyer David Mills [Guardian profile] to face trial on corruption charges. According to Italian media reports, Mills in 1997 and 1998 allegedly gave false testimony at trials involving a Berlusconi-owned broadcasting company in exchange for some $600,000 that Berlusconi funneled to Mills. Both deny the charges; if convicted, they would face sentences ranging from three to eight years. Prosecutors formally asked a judge to indict Berlusconi and Mills in March following an investigation [JURIST reports]. The trial is scheduled to begin in March 2007.

In July, an Italian judge ruled [JURIST report] that Berlusconi should stand trial in November on charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud and money laundering in connection with a TV rights deal involving Berlusconi's company, Mediaset [corporate website]. Preliminary hearings in the case occurred last October [JURIST report] following a four-year investigation. Prosecutors allege that in deals struck between 1994 and 1999, Mediaset falsely reported the broadcast royalties paid for US films to avoid taxes totaling 125 billion old lire. The tax fraud charge is the most serious for the former prime minister, carrying a possible six-year sentence. Prosecutors also allege that Berlusconi used Mediaset to create a slush fund for family use. Berlusconi denies all charges. He was cleared of false accounting charges [JURIST report] in September 2005 and acquitted on bribery charges [JURIST report] in June 2005. AP has more. ANSA has local coverage, in Italian.

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