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Italy's Berlusconi Acquitted in Bribery Case

Silvio Berlusconi
Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images
Silvio Berlusconi

Media tycoon was charged with paying a $600K bribe in connection with a media content kickback case.

ROME – Italian media tycoon and beleaguered former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi dodged another bullet Saturday, after judges ruled that the bribery charges against him were too old and should be dismissed.

The 75-year-old Berlusconi has been tried on a long string of cases since he first entered politics nearly 20 years ago, but he has never been convicted. This is at least the third time that charges against him have been dismissed because the statute of limitations had run out.

But the decision from the Milan judges does not mean Berlusconi is in the clear: he is still on trial in three other cases on charges ranging from corruption to abuse of power to paying an underage girl for sex.

In the just-dismissed case, Berlusconi was accused of paying a $600,000 bribe to British lawyer David Mills in return for Mills’ lying on Berlusconi’s behalf in court as part of another investigation into alleged kickbacks and tax issues related to content acquisitions for Mediaset, the broadcast giant Berlusconi controls.

The latest developments created the unlikely outcome that Mills was convicted of accepting the bribe from Berlusconi but Berlusconi could not be convicted of paying the bribe to Mills.

After his conviction, Mills claimed to have lied about the bribe in order to avoid paying taxes, but judges ruled that Mills’ statement was not admissible because it was not under oath, and Berlusconi critics charged that Mills may have made the remarks under pressure.

Berlusconi, who has denied wrongdoing in all the cases against him, stepped down as prime minister last November amid growing legal troubles and fears that Italy could fall victim to the growing European debt crisis.