Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Berlusconi tax fraud case resumes

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi did not appear at the resumption of his trial in Milan

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has gone back on trial accused of tax fraud.

The charges are linked to the purchase of television and film rights by his family company, Mediaset.

The trial follows a recent decision by Italy's highest court to lift his immunity from prosecution.

Mr Berlusconi did not appear in the Milan court and is attending a UN food summit in Rome. The proceedings were adjourned until 18 January.

The case had been suspended last year, after Mr Berlusconi became prime minister, when a law was passed giving him immunity while in office.

That immunity was lifted in October by Italy's Constitutional Court.

Time limit?

The court's decision also cleared the way for the resumption of another trial involving allegations that Mr Berlusconi bribed British tax lawyer, David Mills. That trial is due to resume later this month.

Mr Berlusconi denies the charges in both cases, saying he is the victim of magistrates with a political agenda.

A controversial new bill aimed at cutting the time given to court cases is currently passing through parliament.

If approved, the legislation would mean the cases against Mr Berlusconi being dropped.

The prime minister's opponents accuse him of tampering with the legal system for his own ends, something he rejects.

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