October 18, 2011 / 12:16 PM / 9 years ago

Milan judge clears Berlusconi in fraud case

MILAN (Reuters) - A Milan judge on Tuesday 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.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends the lower chamber of the deputies in Rome October 14, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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 ($48 bln) 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.

($1 = 0.731 Euros)

Reporting by Manuela d'Alessandro and Valentina Za, Writing by Silvia Aloisi, Editing by Barry Moody and Sophie Hares

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