Prosecutors ask Roman court to try Italy ex-PM Berlusconi for tax evasion

Prosecutors ask Roman court to try Italy ex-PM Berlusconi for tax evasion

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[JURIST] La Procura di Roma, the public prosecutors of Rome, has asked the Tribunale Ordinario di Roma [official website, in Italian] to put former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his son on trial for tax evasion, judicial sources said on Thursday. La Procura is calling for a tribunal of Berlusconi and 11 others [La Repubblico report, in Italian] as part of a broader inquiry into Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian], the media group owned by Italy’s former figurehead. Specifically, the prosecutors say that Mediaset violated Italian tax laws when it bought the rights of Hollywood films and TV shows, and that Berlusconi and his son, Pier Silvio, were part of a scheme to defraud the tax authorities of 10 million euros, or $13.07 million, by inflating invoices between 2004 and 2005. At the moment, the controversial former prime minister is facing three other trials, including a bribery case and two corruption cases. Berlusconi, however, attributes all of the charges to political attacks from his adversaries. In an open letter [text, in Italian] to the Milan-based newspaper Il Giornale [media website, in Italian], Berlusconi wrote in Italian:

I have a conscience; to have served my country in these years with all of my strength, and I am rewarded with a persistence on the part of some magistrates in Milan that have no historical equal. They want to tear down my image as a man, a businessman, and a politician. What saddens me most is to see the extent to which justice can be bent to political and ideological prejudices.

Amid the controversy, prosecutors have not responded to the ex-prime minister’s decree, and the Roman court has yet to rule if the case will move forward.

Berlusconi, who resigned as Italian prime minister in November 2011, has been a defendant in nearly fifty cases. Most recently, he is facing charges of publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement, and paying for sex with an underage prostitute [JURIST reports]. The former Italian leader was hailed to a Milan court in April 2011 to combat the same tax fraud charges at issue now, but then, as acting prime minister, Berlosconi dismissed the charges as a “waste of time” and left the trial [AP report]. In January 2011, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] held hearings and subsequently struck down [JURIST reports] portions of an immunity law [materials, in Italian] supported by Berlusconi that would have granted the premier temporary amnesty from any charges while in office.