Berlusconi's efforts to delay trial dismissed

Milan court looking into bribery charges involving PM

ROME -- The fraud and false accounting trial involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi continued on Monday despite Berlusconi's efforts to have the trial delayed because of a scheduling conflict.

It was the second time in three days that a delaying tactic from the media tycoon's lawyers failed to work: on Saturday, a Milan court looking into charges that Berlusconi bribed U.K. lawyer David Mills so that Mills would lie under oath on Berlusconi's behalf, denied Berlusconi's request to have the trial suspended. Instead, magistrates set a March 26 court date.

In the fraud and false accounting trial, prosecutors allege that Mediaset -- the broadcast giant Berlusconi controls -- paid an inflated price of 470 million euro ($640 million) for the rights to content owned by two offshore companies Berlusconi controls.

Berlusconi's lawyers argued that the Monday hearing in Milan should be delayed because Berlusconi had to attend a cabinet meeting in Rome. But judges in Milan ruled that since the cabinet meeting had been scheduled after Monday's court date was announced, the court date should have taken precedence.

The trial went ahead without Berlusconi, which is the first time that has happened while Berlusconi has been prime minister.
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