Berlusconi fails in British legal appeal

24th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday failed in a bid to prevent evidence relating to corruption charges against him from being heard in a British court.

The recently-deposed leader made an application for a temporary injunction to prevent David Mills, his former tax lawyer, from giving evidence via video-link from London to Milan, where he is on trial for fraud.

Judge David Bean dismissed the application after a private hearing in London, and Mills will now be able to give evidence on Monday as planned.

Berlusconi launched a British judicial review to prevent Mills from testifying but no decision has yet been reached. prompting his lawyers to apply for a temporary injunction.

Bean said Italian prosecutors had sent him a note accusing Berlusconi of attempting to "delay or derail proceedings which have already been subject to tactical litigation of the most sophisticated form".

The judge agreed, saying: "there would appear to be considerable force in that submission."

Berlusconi is accused of bribing Mills with $600,000 (440,000 euros) in exchange for providing false evidence during two trials in the mid-1990s.

The case, which Berlusconi claims is politically motivated, was previously suspended under a temporary immunity law.

An Italian court in February threw out the case against Mills saying it was too late to try him.

Italian judge Torquato Gemelli concluded Mills had accepted a bribe from the billionaire former leader in November 1999 but the lawyer could not be tried as it was beyond the 10-year limit for prosecution set by Italian law.

Mills, a specialist in offshore tax havens, was originally sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.

Berlusconi was initially a co-defendant, but proceedings against him were suspended after parliament approved a law shielding him from prosecution while in office, shortly after he returned to power in 2008.

However Italy's Constitutional Court struck down that legislation last year.

A separate trial against the prime minister restarted in December 2011.

Mills, the estranged husband of British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, admitted receiving the money from Berlusconi as "recognition" for his work but later recanted and said the money was a stipend paid to him by Italian shipbuilder Diego Attanasio.

© 2011 AFP

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