Berlusconi Indicted on Bribery Charges in Fourth Case

9:16 AM PST 10/24/2013 by Eric J. Lyman
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Silvio Berlusconi

The Italian media tycoon is accused of paying a senator more than $4 million to help topple the government of then-prime minister Romano Prodi five years ago.

ROME -- Silvio Berlusconi faces a new legal battle after the three-time prime minister and billionaire media mogul was indicted in Naples on charges of bribing a senator in order to hasten the fall of the government of rival Romano Prodi in 2008.

The 77-year-old billionaire already faces the prospect of being booted from parliament after a definitive conviction in a false-accounting and tax-fraud case tied to his Mediaset TV and movie empire. He is also appealing a seven-year jail term for abuse of power and paying a minor for sex, and a one-year term in a wiretap case involving another political rival.

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In the newest case, Berlusconi is charged with paying a senator in the Prodi camp $4.1 million (€3 million) to vote against the then-prime minister in a pivotal confidence vote. Prodi lost the vote and stepped down, paving the way for Berlusconi to become prime minister for the third time, until he was forced out in 2011 amid fears Italy could fall victim to the European debt crisis.

Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing in all four cases, claiming they are politically motivated.

The mounting woes for Berlusconi may have cast his political future in doubt, but they have been good news for Milan-based Mediaset. The shares closed slightly higher in heavy trading Thursday, closing at €3.78 ($5.10), and they are among the biggest gainers on the Italian Stock Exchange this year, tripling since setting an all-time low late last year and surging by almost 60 percent since June 25, on speculation that a decreased political role for Berlusconi could be good for the company, which controls three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, plus the Medusa film production company and other media holdings.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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