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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Berlusconi cleared of corruption
Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi leads the centre-right opposition
Italy's highest court has acquitted former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi definitively of corruption charges dating back to the 1980s.

The charges concerned a privatisation deal in which Mr Berlusconi was accused of bribing judges to block the sale of food group SME to a rival.

In April an appeals court acquitted the media mogul on all charges, and Friday's ruling upholds that.

Mr Berlusconi has fought off repeated corruption allegations.

Mr Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said he was pleased that the verdict had been upheld.

"It was high time. Twelve years have gone by since the start of this trial, in which Silvio Berlusconi was crucified, has been slandered around the world and now his innocence has finally emerged crystal clear," he told Reuters news agency.

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

The SME case dates back to before Mr Berlusconi's entry into 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.

It was claimed that Mr Berlusconi had influenced the judges' decision by bribing them.

But in 2004 a Milan court cleared Mr Berlusconi on one count of corruption and said the statute of limitations had run out on a second.

He was acquitted of both counts in the appeals court in April - a decision backed up by the Supreme Court in Rome on Friday.

Mr Berlusconi is Italy's richest man, estimated to be worth $12bn (7bn). He owns the broadcaster Mediaset.

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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