Silvio Berlusconi Charges Dropped
ROME – An Italian court on Tuesday threw out charges of tax fraud and embezzlement against Italian media mogul turned prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, saying there was not enough evidence to link him to the alleged crime. But other company officials, including Berlusconi’s son, remain involved in the case.
The Milan-based case stemmed from allegations that Mediaset, the media giant Berlusconi founded, fraudulently acquired film rights it already owned and otherwise juggled its books and moved assets between subsidiaries to escape as much as $45 million in tax payments over a four-year period ending in 2003.
The charges against Berlusconi were considered strong, and their dismissal caused a buzz in the local press.
Berlusconi was prime minister for most of the period in question, and his lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, used that fact to bolster Berlusconi’s defense, charging he was too busy as prime minister to pay attention to the day-to-day developments at Mediaset.
Judge Maria Vicidomini agreed, and dismissed the charges against Berlusconi -- though the prime minister’s son and Mediaset’s deputy chairman Pier Silvio Berlusconi, and chairman Fedele Confalonieri, were indicted in the same case, which will get underway Dec. 22.
The dismissal of the tax fraud and embezzlement has continues a relatively positive week for the embattled Berlusconi, who is suffering from falling approval levels, the defection of key allies, and calls for his resignation by political opponents. On Friday, Berlusconi narrowly survived a confidence vote in parliament’s lower house that would have required him to resign if he failed to win a majority of the votes.
But the latest developments do not mean the 75-year-old Berlusconi is out of the woods in Italy: he is also defendant in three other trials, with charges ranging from bribery, corruption, and influence peddling to paying an underage girl for sex.