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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Berlusconi cleared of corruption
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi is reported to be "thrilled" at the verdict
An Italian court has cleared former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over corruption charges in a case concerning a 1980s privatisation deal.

Mr Berlusconi had been accused of bribing judges to block the sale of food group SME to a rival.

But the Milan appeals court confirmed a 2004 acquittal of the media mogul, who now leads the centre-right opposition.

The SME case is one of several ongoing legal battles being fought by the former Italian prime minister.

One of Mr Berlusconi's team of lawyers said the politician was pleased that the original verdict had been upheld.

Silvio Berlusconi has been put on trial at least six times
Bribing financial police
Guilty on four counts; overturned on appeal
Illegal political financing
Guilty; acquitted on appeal as statute of limitations (SoL) expired
False accounting (Medusa Cinema)
Guilty; overturned on appeal
Tax fraud, false accounting (Macherio estates)
Acquitted/ SoL expired
False accounting (AC Milan transfer)
SoL expired
Bribing a judge
Case suspended when MPs backing Berlusconi grant him immunity from prosecution; Constitutional court throws law out, case resumes. Acquitted/ SoL expired

"I've spoken to Mr Berlusconi and he was thrilled. It's understandable - he has been in the firing line for 11 years and has been accused a thousand times over. This is a great victory for justice," Gaetano Pecorella said.

Prosecutors had requested that the court reverse the 2004 acquittal and sentence Mr Berlusconi to five years in prison.

The case originates in the 1980s, before Mr Berlusconi made the decision to enter Italian politics.

Judges blocked the sale of the SME food conglomerate to one of Mr Berlusconi's rivals, ruling in favour of a group of which he was a part.

The prosecution said Mr Berlusconi had influenced the judges' decision by bribing them.

The sale never went ahead and the group was eventually sold off piecemeal.

But in the latest ruling, the presiding judge said: "The crime does not exist and he [Mr Berlusconi] did not commit the crime."

Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
26 Nov 06 |  Europe
Judges urged to jail Berlusconi
12 Nov 04 |  Europe
Q&A: Berlusconi trial
10 Dec 04 |  Europe

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