Entries in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2)


Berlusconi Has Forty Court Hearings Through May

Ian Waldie/Getty Images(ROME) -- Silvio Berlusconi has a busy few months ahead of him. The former prime minister of Italy has a media empire to run, his responsibilities as a member of parliament, and no less than forty court hearings through May 2012.

Berlusconi is a defendant in four ongoing criminal trials, accused of underage sex, abuse of power, bribery and embezzlement to name a few. For years he's alleged to have used the power of his office to hold prosecutors at bay.

Analysts say Berlusconi lost a lot more than Italy’s highest political office when he resigned Saturday.

"The long and the short of it is, it's quite bad news for him personally," says Dr. Jonathan Hopkins of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As prime minister, Berlusconi appointed the Minister of Justice who had leverage over judges. Twice, he pushed through laws granting immunity to sitting prime ministers and other cabinets.

Both laws were overturned. But Berlusconi managed to make other legal reforms stick. "Over the years he introduced legislative changes to make it easier to delay judicial proceedings....he put sand in the wheels of the judicial system," Hopkins said, “then waited out the statute of limitations.”

Italian prosecutors have never been shy going after the media magnate. He was indicted for tax fraud a few months into his first stint as prime minister, in 1994.

Over the years he's been accused of bribing judges, corruption, embezzlement, false accounting and illegal party financing. In a handful of cases, prosecutors prevailed only to see Berlusconi win on appeal.

In 2009, then prime minister Berlusconi said he'd been to court 2,500 times in the last 20 years and spend millions of Euros on "judges," before correcting his slip of the tongue to say "lawyers."

Berlusconi is charged with bribery in one of four ongoing criminal cases. A verdict is expected before April of next year when the statute of limitations for the crime runs out.

Then there's Rubygate, the case involving Moroccan stripper Karmina El Mahroug, known as Ruby Heartstealer. Prosecutors say Berlusconi had sex with Mahroug when she was 17, later calling a jail to get her released on an unrelated theft charge to keep her from going public.

The underage sex and abuse of power charges carry a combined sentence of 15 years. A verdict could come as early as next spring. And there may be even more legal trouble in Berlusconi's future. Investigators are looking into more obstruction and bribery charges involving Berlusconi and the man who allegedly supplied him with women for his notorious "bunga bunga" parties, businessman Giampaolo Tarantini.

Berlusconi has denied all wrongdoing. Despite the laundry list of criminal cases, in the end few believe the 75-year old will do any serious time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bill to Shorten Trials Passes in One Branch of Italian Parliament

Governo dot it(ROME) -- Italian lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would reduce the length of trials, which may possibly bring an end to a bribery case against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the BBC reports.

Opposing politicians in the parliament's lower house called the law a "disgrace" made especially for Berlusconi.

The bill that will shorten the length of trials for people with no previous convictions still must be approved in the Italian senate, but it is likely to do so, since Berlusconi has a solid majority there.

The bill's passage will also likely end the trial accusing the Italian prime minister of bribing British lawyer David Mills.

Berlusconi has indicated he will not run for re-election in 2013.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio