Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 12:04 UK

Berlusconi rejects bribery ruling

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi says he will let the judges know what he thinks of them

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to give a full rebuttal to judges who said his lawyer had lied in court to protect him.

Mr Berlusconi said he would respond in parliament to the "outrageous verdict", but did not say when.

His British tax lawyer David Mills was found guilty in February of taking a £400,000 bribe from Mr Berlusconi.

Explaining their verdict on Tuesday, the judges said he lied either to help the PM dodge charges or keep profits.

"The artificial, opaque and sophisticated way in which the money was transferred to Mills' accounts itself indicates the illegality of the whole operation," the judges wrote.

'Contrary to reality'

Mr Berlusconi was originally on trial with Mills, but passed a new immunity law which suspended the charges for as long as he was in office.

He has always denied any involvement.

Mills, the estranged husband of UK Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, also rejects the verdict and remains at liberty after launching an appeal.

David Mills
Judges say Mills committed perjury in two separate trials in the 1990s

Mr Berlusconi responded to the judges' statement by saying: "It is simply an outrageous verdict, contrary to reality, and I am convinced that the appeal judgement will show it.

"I announced this morning my intention to explain myself before parliament on the Mills judgement and I will do it as soon as I have time."

He said he would use the opportunity to "finally say what I have thought for some time about certain judges".

Still popular

Mr Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest men, has been through the courts several times on charges including embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting, and attempting to bribe a judge.

In some cases he has been acquitted. In others, his conviction was overturned on appeal, or the statute of limitations expired before the case could reach its conclusion.

He has often blamed what he calls politically motivated left-wing judges and prosecutors for his various run-ins with the law.

But calls by some smaller political parties for the prime minister to resign over the latest scandal are unlikely to have much impact, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome.

With substantial parliamentary backing and with his personal popularity ratings among the highest for any recent Italian leader, there seems little prospect of him being unseated, our correspondent says.

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