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Berlusconi loses bid to block testimony at corruption trial

An Italian high court Thursday rejected an application by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to prevent testimony being heard at his corruption trial. Berlusconi had applied for but was denied an interim injunction [Guardian report] preventing David Mills [JURIST news archive], his former tax lawyer, from appearing via video link from a London court. A justice sitting in private in London turned down the application after giving weight to Italian prosecutors' arguments that Berlusconi was merely trying to delay proceedings. Mills, 64, had set up a web of offshore companies and trusts for Berlusconi, and was indicted with the former prime minister on corruption charges by the Milan district court. He is the estranged husband of former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, who split with Mills in 2006 after it emerged that, unknown to her, he had paid off part of their mortgage with £350,000 allegedly given as a gift by Berlusconi. Mills was convicted in absentia [JURIST report] in February 2009. He is now due to testify at Westminster magistrates court on Monday.

Berlusconi has been a defendant in nearly 50 cases, including two other ongoing proceedings involving tax fraud and embezzlement [JURIST reports]. In July an Italian appeals court ordered Fininvest [corporate website], a holding company owned by Berlusconi, to pay €560 million in damages and fees to Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) Group [corporate website]. The complaint stemmed from Fininvest's 1991 acquisition of Italian publishing company Mondadori [corporate website], during which Fininvest bribed a judge in exchange for favorable decisions. Neither Berlusconi nor Ruby attended [JURIST report] the beginning of the prostitution trial in April, and the court adjourned after only 10 minutes. Both parties deny having a sexual relationship, and Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations groundless.

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