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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Berlusconi faces new fraud charge
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi has always maintained his innocence
A Milan prosecutor has laid a new charge of false accounting against ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Monday's charge opened a new phase in the long-running battle between the Italian judiciary and Mr Berlusconi.

It prevents the statute of limitations from expiring in a trial over the purchase by Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset empire of rights to films.

Mr Berlusconi's lawyer says his client was not involved in company business at the time of the alleged fraud.

The charge, brought by prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale, alleges that Mediaset purchased television rights to American films before 1999 through two "offshore" companies and falsely declared their costs to reduce the tax bill.

The charge against Mr Berlusconi, Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalieri, Hollywood producer Frank Agrama, and two others, relates to financial reports for 2000 that were made public in 2001.

THE CASES AGAINST BERLUSCONI
Silvio Berlusconi has been put on trial at least six times for
Bribing financial police
Guilty on four counts; conviction overturned on appeal
Illegal political financing
Guilty; acquitted on appeal as statute of limitations (SoL) had 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
Acquitted/SoL expired

"It refers to a period during which [Mr Berlusconi] wasn't involved in the company - he was in politics," said Nicolas Ghedini, Mr Berlusconi's lawyer.

The statute of limitations was due to expire on remaining counts against Mr Berlusconi by October 20, Mr Ghedini added.

The charge represents the latest chapter in the long-running saga of legal scrapes involving Mr Berlusconi's Milan-based business interests.

Until now, the former premier either had cases against him dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, or was acquitted outright. He has always maintained his innocence.

The court adjourned the trial until November 19.



SEE ALSO
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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