Monday, April 11, 2011

Berlusconi walks out of fraud court

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Source: Press TV

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has walked out of a court room during his tax fraud trial, saying the hearing was “a waste of time.”

In an open court on Monday, about two and a half hours after the hearing started, Berlusconi, who was sitting at the front row with his lawyer, stepped out of the court room, accusing prosecutors of having no case against him.

"I've spent a surreal morning, a paradoxical waste of time and a waste of resources," Berlusconi told reporters inside before leaving.

"There is no proof, no documents, no testimony, no money trail that supports the prosecutors' thesis."

Monday's trial centered on charges that Berlusconi's Mediaset broadcasting empire has bought TV and film rights at inflated prices through offshore front companies, leaving the difference to be skimmed off to avoid tax and create secret slush funds.

Both Mediaset and Berlusconi deny the charges and the prime minister's lawyers, who attended a related hearing on March 28, said that he would be in the Milan court where judges are expected to question some defense witnesses.

"These charges are laughable, unfounded and demented," Berlusconi said, adding that the charges were "the invention of the public prosecutor."

The Mediaset trial is one of a related series of three trials, all linked to the sale of television and film rights dating back to the 1990s.

The case is not related to Berlusconi's sex scandal in which the prime minister is accused of paying for sex with a dancer when she was under the age of 18.

Berlusconi, who has faced at least a dozen trials over the years, denies all charges against him and says he has been victimized by leftist magistrates who are using the legal system to bring him down.

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