June 18, 2012 / 6:23 PM / 8 years ago

Prosecutors seek jail for Berlusconi in Mediaset trial

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives for a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) ahead of a two-day European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 1, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors asked a court on Monday to sentence former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to three years and eight months in jail on fraud charges in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset (MS.MI) television company.

Prosecutors also asked in a public hearing for a jail sentence of three years and four months for Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri.

Berlusconi and other executives at Mediaset are accused of inflating the price paid for acquiring television rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi, skimming off part of the sum declared to create illegal slush funds.

“The slush funds bear the fingerprints of Berlusconi,” said prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale in his accusatory speech.

Berlusconi and all other defendants in the trial have denied the accusations.

The investigation centred on TV and cinema rights that Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest bought via offshore companies from U.S. groups for 470 million euros in 1994-1999.

Public prosecutors believe that the offshore companies sold back the rights to Mediaset at an inflated price in order to avoid paying taxes and create slush funds for Berlusconi.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for July 2.

Reporting By Manuela D'Alessandro

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