Italy: Court confirms lawyer's sentence for accepting bribes from Berlusconi

Milan, 27 October (AKI) - An appeals court in the northern Italian city of Milan has on Tuesday, confirmed the four-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption of British tax lawyer David Mills after he allegedly accepted a 600,000 dollars bribe from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 1997.

The verdict was read after four hours of deliberation. Mills' lawyer Alessio Lanzi said he would now take the case to Italy's top court, the Court of Cassation.

"Mine can only be a bitter comment. We will, however, take this to the Court of Cassation, said Lanzi, echoing the feeling of Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini who said Italy's top court would surely overturn the decision by the Appeals Court of Milan.

"The decision by the Appeals Court of Milan in regard to the Mills case is illogical...It was a trial completed in record time denying any proof that would refute wrongdoing and rejecting every possibility of defence. That decision will be annulled by the Court of Cassation," said Ghedini.

"One more time, we can confirm that in Milan you cannot have a trial when there is any connection, even indirect, with president (of the council of ministers) Berlusconi," he said.

Mills' appeals trial reopened in Milan on 9 October with defence lawyers demanding that Berlusconi (photo) testify because he had not appeared in the original trial.

Mills had appealed the four-and-a-half-year jail term handed to him for accepting the bribe in exchange for giving false testimony in court. Mills maintains he is innocent.

The sentence is likely to make the premier's defence case harder, however, observers say it is unlikely Berlusconi will stand trial in the Mills case as the charges against him expire in 2011.

On 7 October, Italy's Constitutional Court struck down the so-called Lodo Alfano law, which granted legal immunity to the four most senior office-bearers including the post of prime minister.

The first case to be restarted against Berlusconi after Italy's Constitutional Court ruling on 7 October was the appeals trial of Mills.

However, another of Berlusconi's trial involve alleged tax fraud and false accounting in the purchase of film rights in the United States by one of his companies, Mediaset. The trial will resume in the northern city of Milan on 16 November.


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