Italy prosecutors seek fraud and embezzlement charges against Berlusconi

[JURIST] Italian prosecutors on Friday sought to indict Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on fraud and embezzlement charges [JURIST report] involving his media company, Mediatrade, despite a new law granting the executive temporary immunity. The law passed [JURIST report] in March and allows cabinet officials to postpone criminal proceedings against them for up to 18 months if the charges constitute a "legitimate impediment" to performing public duties. Prosecutors claim [Reuters report] that while Berlusconi was head of Mediatrade, it sold television rights at inflated prices to a US producer, resulting in illegitimate gains of approximately $47 million. Prosecutors also sought to charge [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] Berlusconi's son, Pier Silvio Berlusconi, and nine others in connection to the case. Berlusconi's lawyers deny that he was in control of Mediatrade during the deals, and have not indicated whether they will invoke the immunity law.

The law granting Berlusconi immunity was approved [JURIST report] by the Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Italian] in February. In January, hundreds of Italy's judges walked out of their courtrooms to protest the passage of legislation that placed strict time limits [JURIST reports] on the trial and appeals process. Both laws have been criticized as being tailored for Berlusconi's benefit. He currently faces corruption and tax fraud trials, both of which have been postponed [JURIST report]. The leader has been previously acquitted of false accounting and bribery, and has had other charges against him dropped [JURIST reports].

 

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