An Italian judge has dismissed a corruption case against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying it had expired under the statute of limitations.
The case, which dates back to the 1990s, centers on allegations that the ex-premier, 75, paid his former British tax lawyer, David Mills, $600,000 to lie in court about Berlusconi’s business interests, the BBC reported.
Prosecutors had requested that Berlusconi serve five years in jail. Berlusconi denies wrongdoing, denouncing the trial as a “fairy tale” and claiming that it and other cases against him are politically motivated and part of a smear campaign.
Mills also denied that any such payment had been paid. He was convicted on bribery charges in 2009, but the conviction was overturned by Italy’s highest court after the statute of limitations expired, according to The Guardian.
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Marco Travaglio, a journalist and Berlusconi critic, was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “This is the sixth time the statute of limitations has stopped a trial involving Berlusconi. Anywhere else in the world the clock is stopped on the statute of limitations when the trial starts, but here it keeps on going.”
“Moreover, the statute of limitations for this kind of trial used to be 15 years, until Berlusconi changed it to 10 in 2005,” he added.
Prosecutor Fabio de Pasquale reportedly told journalist as he left court that “I just want to get out of here,” according to The Daily Telegraph. Prosecutors later said they intend to appeal against Saturday’s decision, and will argue that the time limit in the trial did not expire until May.
Although today’s decision means Berlusconi will not have to serve time in jail, the ruling is not the same as an acquittal, and a written report on the case will be published within 90 days.
Berlusconi is also on trial on tax fraud charges, and is accused of hiring an underage prostitute and subsequently using his influence to secure her release from prison after she was arrested for theft, according to CNN.
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