Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
A Milan judge has cleared Silvio Berlusconi in a fraud
and embezzlement case related to his private broadcaster
Mediaset , a rare legal victory for the weakened Italian prime
minister who is a defendant in three other trials.
The judge ordered Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio and Fedele
Confalonieri, respectively the deputy chairman and chairman
of Mediaset, to stand trial in the same case, which has been
dubbed the "Mediatrade" case.
"Now everyone is asking me if I'm satisfied," Berlusconi told
reporters after the ruling. "I am not because I have been
accused of an absurdity. This is the 25th trial in which I
have been cleared. It is a serious scandal that prosecutors
accuse me and their colleagues clear me."
Berlusconi still faces two separate corruption and tax fraud
court cases linked to his business empire, and a third trial
where he is accused of paying for sex with an underage
prostitute and abusing his power to cover it up.
The 75-year-old billionaire media tycoon denies all charges
and accuses Milan prosecutors of waging a
politically-motivated campaign to oust him from power.
The Mediatrade case centres on accusations Mediaset acquired
television rights at inflated prices in deals prosecutors
allege resulted in embezzlement of 35 million euros and an 8
million euro tax fraud.
"We had always said that there was no wrongdoing and that
Berlusconi had nothing to do with this," said the premier's
lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini.
"It's a fairly rare decision ... but nonetheless we still
think Berlusconi is being hounded by the Milan judges."
The prosecutors in the Mediatrade case will appeal against
the decision to clear Berlusconi. The trial against his son
Pier Silvio and Fedele Confalonieri will start on Dec. 22,
judicial sources said.
Mediaset said in a statement the decision to try its
executives was "difficult to understand", adding the trial
would prove their innocence.