Judges end Berlusconi’s bribery trial citing statute of limitations

MILAN, Reuters

MILAN — Italian judges on Saturday ended former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s trial on charges of bribing British lawyer David Mills, saying the statute of limitations meant that too much time had passed for a verdict to be reached.

The case surrounding Mills, the estranged husband of a former British cabinet minister, was one of the most prominent of the scandals involving Berlusconi, Italy’s richest media entrepreneur as well as its dominant political figure of the past two decades.

Mills was convicted in 2009 of taking a US$600,000 bribe from Berlusconi in return for agreeing to withhold incriminating details about the former premier’s business dealings when he testified in two court cases. But the case against Mills was shelved the following year because the statute of limitations had run out, and the British lawyer was never extradited to serve his 4 1/2-year sentence.

Berlusconi, who resigned as prime minister in November as the euro zone crisis menaced Italy, has always denied wrongdoing in the case, repeatedly accusing what he called politically biased left-wing judges of mounting a campaign to destroy him.

The 75-year-old has been involved in a string of legal cases since he entered politics in 1994. He has either been acquitted or seen the cases expire under Italy’s statute of limitations.