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Italy high court dismisses bribery charges against ex-Berlusconi lawyer

[JURIST] Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] on Thursday overturned the bribery conviction of David Mills [JURIST news archive], a British barrister and former lawyer to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile]. The court agreed with prosecutors who said the statute of limitations had expired [Times report], but fined Mills [Corriere Della Sera report, in Italian] €250,000 for damaging the state's reputation and ordered Mills to pay €10,000 for legal costs. Mills was sentenced [JURIST report] last February to four-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly accepting USD $600,000 in bribes for offering false testimony at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company Mediaset [corporate website]. An appeals court upheld [JURIST report] his conviction in October. It appears likely that prosecutors will drop charges against Berlusconi [Telegraph report] associated with the incident since the court ruled the statute of limitations has expired. Berlusconi's trial was scheduled to resume Friday.

Berlusconi's trial was postponed [JURIST report] in January so that the court could hear Mills's appeal. Proceedings were previously delayed [JURIST report] late last year while the court determined whether Berlusconi was immune from prosecution. In October, the Italian Constitutional Court struck down [JURIST report] a law granting top Italian lawmakers immunity from prosecution while in office. Berlusconi was removed as a defendant in the case after the 2007 passage of the immunity law [JURIST report]. The bribery and corruption trial against Berlusconi and Mills began [JURIST report] in early 2007. Mills's allegedly false testimony was given during trials at which Berlusconi was acquitted [JURIST report] of paying kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi.

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