Berlusconi faces showdowns with justice

A tax fraud trial involving Italian PM will esume in Milan on Monday.

Rome: A tax fraud trial involving Italian
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will resume in Milan on
Monday, in the first of a series of showdowns between the
embattled leader and Italy`s justice system.

The 74-year-old media tycoon turned politician has
been asked to appear before the court to face accusations that
his Mediaset business empire engaged in a fraud to make its
revenues appear smaller than they really were.
The trial was suspended in April 2010 after parliament
adopted a hugely controversial law that granted Berlusconi
temporary immunity but Italy`s Constitutional Court partially
struck down the legislation last month.

Berlusconi could still try and avoid appearing in
court by saying that his official duties prevent him from
attending the hearing.

His political career spanning almost two decades has
been plagued by legal troubles but Berlusconi himself has not
appeared in court for years.
His personal lawyers, Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo,
are both also lawmakers from Berlusconi`s ruling People of
Freedom party.

Monday`s hearing may be brief and uneventful but it
signals the start of a slew of trials for Berlusconi,
culminating in a trial starting April 6 for having sex with an
underage prostitute and trying to cover it up.

On March 5, there will be a hearing on alleged fraud
in the purchase of television rights by Mediatrade-RTI, one of
Berlusconi`s many companies.

The judge is set to decide whether the prime minister
should stand trial.

Berlusconi is set to appear before a court in Milan
again on March 11 for a trial on alleged bribery of a witness.

The trial had also been suspended by the immunity law approved
by Berlusconi`s government last year.

Berlusconi is accused of paying his former British
lawyer David Mills 600,000 dollars (436,000 euros) to commit
perjury in two trials in the 1990s.

Mills was sentenced for perjury in February 2009 and
the conviction was upheld on appeal but the case against him
expired under a statute of limitations that has also saved
Berlusconi from several convictions.

Italy has a 10-year limit for prosecutions. Even as it
threw out the case, Italy`s top appeals court recognised it
was "a very grave case of corruption."

But, while Berlusconi has proved able at dealing with
corruption inquiries, the real nightmare for him begins on
April 6 with a trial involving voluptuous pole dancer Karima
El Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".

Bureau Report

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