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Italy court acquits ex-PM Berlusconi of false accounting

[JURIST] Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was acquitted of false accounting by a Milan court on Wednesday. The charges were related to Berlusconi's membership in a group trying to buy the SME state food conglomerate in the 1980s, but the court found that the allegations against Berlusconi did not amount to a crime under amendments made to the criminal law in 2002 while Berlusconi was in power. Despite his legal woes, the former prime minister hopes to return to office and has been pushing for early elections since Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi [official profile] resigned last week after losing a vote of confidence [BBC report] in the upper house of parliament.

Berlusconi, a media mogul and Italy's richest man, has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October, Italy's highest court of appeal upheld Berlusconi's April acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. Berlusconi has continually maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of conducting a political vendetta against him. AP has more.

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