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Updated: April 11, 2011 15:40 IST

Berlusconi shows up in court in tax fraud case

AP
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Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts as he leaves the tribunal in Milan. He made a rare appearance at a court hearing in Milan for a tax fraud case that he dismissed as groundless and ridiculous. File photo: AP.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts as he leaves the tribunal in Milan. He made a rare appearance at a court hearing in Milan for a tax fraud case that he dismissed as groundless and ridiculous. File photo: AP.

Mr. Berlusconi smiled and shook hands with lawyers as he entered the courthouse in Milan. Outside, dozens of his supporters organized a demonstration, with blue balloons saying "Silvio, resist!"

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi made a rare court appearance on Monday for his trial on a tax fraud charge.

Mr. Berlusconi smiled and shook hands with lawyers as he entered the courthouse in Milan. Outside, dozens of his supporters organized a demonstration, with blue balloons saying “Silvio, resist!”

Mr. Berlusconi denies the charge and has declared that he will appear in the Milan tribunal as frequently as duties allow to contest four active court cases against him.

“These charges are laughable, unfounded and demented,” Mr. Berlusconi told reporters inside the courtroom. He called the charges “the invention of the public prosecutor.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Berlusconi’s Mediaset media empire purchased TV rights for U.S. movies through two offshore companies and falsely declared the costs to reduce its tax bill. Along with Mr. Berlusconi, 10 others are charged in the case, including Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri and movie producer Frank Agrama.

The premier attended a closed—door preliminary hearing on March 28 in another alleged tax fraud case also involving the purchase of TV rights to broadcast American films on his private network.

But he last showed up in open court for a trial eight years ago. He has been tried many times, mostly in relation to his business dealings. He has always either been acquitted or seen the statute of limitations expire.

Last week he skipped the opening of his separate trial in Milan for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute and using his influence to cover it up. He has denied wrongdoing, saying politically—driven magistrates want to oust him from power. On Monday he called the charges in that case “totally without foundation.”

Mr. Berlusconi dismissed the possibility of a conviction in any of the four cases he’s facing, saying- “Not in your wildest dreams!”

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