Silvio Berlusconi Could Testify in Early February

Silvio Berlusconi
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In 2009, Murdoch's Sky Italia accused the Italian prime minister's Mediaset of violating antitrust laws. At an August hearing on the hacking inquiry, Murdoch said News Corp. in Italy is "a particularly difficult situation" and that Berlusconi is a "particularly tricky competitor."

The former Italian prime minister faces corruption charges.

ROME – Italian media kingpin and disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Monday he is ready to testify in court in connection with his corruption trial, setting up early February as a key period for him.

Up to this point, Berlusconi had answered questions in court on charges related to wire taps and prostitution through his attorneys and in writing, and he had told reporters he is not yet prepared to make more comprehensive statements thought to be a key part of his trial. But on Monday Berlusconi said he is ready to speak.

The next hearing in the trial will take place Feb. 7.

The development comes days after a judge in Milan said that the ruling in another case over alleged kickbacks on film deals in the 1990s, could come as soon as Feb. 11, around two weeks before the statute of limitations on those charges runs out.

Berlusconi, 75, is the billionaire owner of the Mediaset broadcast and production company. He stepped down as prime minister Nov. 12 amid personal scandals and fears that Italy could fall victim to Europe’s growing debt crisis.

Since then, he has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the technocratic government led by Mario Monti, a former European commissioner, and he has taken a more active role in the day-to-day operations of Mediaset.

Last week, Berlusconi complained that Monti’s reforms were failing to improve the country’s economic situation, and he predicted he and his ministers would soon be invited back to take control of the government.

Meanwhile, a key Berlusconi ally -- former Minister for Public Administration Renato Brunetta -- has predicted that the county’s anemic economic situation could force new elections this year. Elections are currently scheduled to take place in 2013.