Berlusconi skips tax fraud hearing

September 27th, 2011 - 12:34 am ICT by IANS  

Milan, Sep 26 (IANS/AKI) Silvio Berlusconi’s tax fraud trial involving his media empire was adjourned Monday till Oct 5 after the Italian prime minister and several defence witnesses skipped the hearing.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi and his co-accused deny allegations that he and executives of his private broadcaster, Mediaset, inflated the price paid for acquiring television rights via offshore companies controlled by him.

The judge in the Milan court Monday warned that the trial could be “timed out” by Italy’s statute of limitations unless the hearings set for Oct 5 and 26 went ahead.

The lawyers in Berlusconi’s defence team hinted that the prime minister’s prior commitments may also prevent him from attending court Oct 5.

Berlusconi is currently on trial in three other cases on charges of bribery, sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office.

The tax fraud trial was suspended last year following the introduction of a law allowing the prime minister to avoid court appearances on account of government duties. But in January, Italy’s Constitutional Court struck down part of the provision.

Berlusconi has since attended some of the hearings.

He has repeatedly rejected opposition calls for him to resign over the government’s handling of the stricken Italian economy and various scandals that have hit him.

The prime minister has said he would only stand down if he lost a parliamentary confidence vote.


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