Rome: Italy`s highest court has overturned a guilty verdict for British lawyer David Mills, who was accused of taking a bribe to lie in court in the 1990s to protect Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
The Court of Cassation determined that the statute of limitations had expired. The ruling was a victory for Berlusconi even though the court accepted the prosecutor`s argument that the lawyer did in fact accept payment from the Italian leader.
Berlusconi`s own trial on related corruption charges was put on hold pending the outcome of Mills` final appeal.
Mills and Berlusconi have denied wrongdoing, with the Premier saying he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors.
Mills was found guilty of corruption in February 2009 and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Lower court judges ruled that he received USD 600,000 to give false testimony in two 1990s trials to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest holding company from charges relating to the purchase of US film rights.
An appeals court in October upheld the decision.
In his arguments yesterday, Prosecutor Gianfranco Ciani insisted that Mills took the bribe, but in a surprise move he recommended that the 2009 conviction be thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.