Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears to be headed for the courts again when corruption cases against him come up for hearing on the 27th of this month.
Accused of paying his former lawyer David Mills, the estranged husband of Britain’s Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, the sum of €600,000 euros to commit perjury in his favour, the ebullient Italian Prime Minister is to stand trial after he lost his self-promulgated immunity from prosecution earlier this year. Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled as unconstitutional, a law that gave Italy’s four top peoples’ representatives — the President, Prime Minister and Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate — immunity from prosecution while in office.
But Mr. Berlusconi, not to be daunted, has already declared that he will not step down, come what may. On the contrary, he has renewed his attacks against his country’s judiciary, which he claims is riddled with left-wing magistrates who are out to get him.
The magistrates in Milan have lost little time since the Constitutional Court lifted Mr. Berlusconi’s immunity on October 7 and proceedings in the first case against him — over billing for the purchase of television rights for his Mediaset group in order to pay less taxes — begin on November 16. But the most awaited case, on charges of corruption and perjury involving David Mills will be heard on November 27. Mr. Mills has been convicted to a prison term of four and a half years. His appeal was rejected last Tuesday by an appeals court but he is unlikely to go to court since he has now filed a further appeal to have the judgement annulled. The statute of limitations which kicks in next January will probably get Mr. Mills off the hook.
The Mills case was one of three corruption and tax fraud suits that were frozen because of the immunity law, but the judges’ decision has paved the way for them to resume. In some cases he was found guilty of several charges of illegal party financing, corruption, bribery and false accounting — but he always won on appeal, thereby avoiding jail.
As of earlier this year, Mr. Berlusconi had been involved in 2,500 hearings, had received 587 visits from the police and had spent €174 million in legal fees during his political career. Mr. Berlusconi has described himself as “the most persecuted man in the history of the world”.