Berlusconi’s escalating legal woes

Silvio
Berlusconi’s battles with the courts continue as the first of four separate
trials involving the Italian prime minister gets under way in Milan following a
ruling by the Constitutional court that he could no longer put off the
hearings.

In
the first trial to resume after a 10-month break, Mr Berlusconi and executives
in his Mediaset broadcasting company are charged with tax
fraud over the acquisition of TV rights through offshore companies that
allegedly led to the creation of slush funds holding $692 million.

Mr
Berlusconi denies the charges and accuses the judiciary of abusing Italy’s
legal system in an attempt to bring down his government.

He
was not in court; the case has been adjourned until 11 April.

But Berlusconi has many other legal
troubles.

In the coming weeks, the
billionaire media owner faces a preliminary hearing in a separate case of alleged
fraud that also involves Mediaset.

On 11 March his trial resumes on
charges of corrupting David Mills, his former UK lawyer, to give false evidence
on his behalf.

And
on April 6, the 74-year-old prime minister is due to face trial on charges of paying an
underage prostitute and abuse of office in attempting to cover up their alleged relationship.

He
denies charges in all the cases.

Mr
Berlusconi says it is impossible for him to govern under such conditions and
had parliament pass two laws – which the Constitutional court either struck
down or amended – that in effect froze his legal proceedings.

Coupled
Mr Berlusconi, however, has decided to struggle on rather than call early
elections and risk losing power at the polls.

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