Berlusconi to Face Charges in New Trial

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ROME – Italian media tycoon and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday was slapped with charges that will lead to a fourth trial, this time for allegedly revealing confidential information about a 2005 run-in with law enforcement to the Milan newspaper his family owns.

Berlusconi, the 75-year-old billionaire owner of the Mediaset broadcast and cinema empire, is already on trial for corruption, bribery, tax evasion, abuse of power, and paying an under-age girl for sex. But these latest charges are new, and the Milan judge who filed the charges set a March 15 court date for the initial hearing.

That’s just days after the bribery trial, in which Berlusconi is charged with paying British attorney David Mills $600,000 to lie for him in court on charges related to illegal fees related to film acquisition rights for Mediaset, is set to conclude.

The latest charges are not directly related to Mediaset, but do feature a prominent part of the Berlusconi media empire: Il Giornale, a newspaper Berlusconi controlled and which is now run by the former prime minister’s brother, Paolo Berlusconi.

The charges are that Silvio Berlusconi, who was prime minister at the time, in 2005 leaked government information about a bid for insurance company Unipol to take over Banca Nazionale di Lavoro to Il Giornale, which ran it over several days in a major scoop. The information was connected to Piero Fassino, a leading political rival to Berlusconi, damaging his reputation ahead of national elections.

Through his attorneys, Berlusconi on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing.

Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister in disgrace on Nov. 12, as Italy struggled to avoid falling victim to Europe’s debt crisis. Since leaving office, Berlusconi has been a vocal critic of his successor, Mario Monti. But Berlusconi said last week he had no interest in seeking the prime minister’s office again.

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