Berlusconi Charges in Bribery Case Dropped Owing to Statute of Limitations

Charges against Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in connection with bribes allegedly paid to U.K. lawyer David Mills to lie on his behalf under oath have been dropped.

Berlusconi was accused of paying Mills, his former tax adviser and ex-husband of former U.K. Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, to give favorable testimony in another corruption trial. The charges have been dropped because the statute of limitations has expired, according to a televised court ruling in Milan today.

Berlusconi, whose party provides vital parliamentary support to Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government, had denied any wrongdoing. On Feb. 22, a Milan appeals court rejected a request by Berlusconi’s lawyers to recuse the judges hearing the Mills case.

Mills was sentenced by a Milan court in February 2009 to four-and-a-half years in jail for accepting $600,000 in exchange for giving false testimony in two previous trials about an alleged offshore network of companies controlled by Berlusconi’s holding company, Fininvest SpA.

The British national initially told the court in July 2004 that he had received money as “recognition” for his testimony. He later retracted that testimony. Criminal charges against him were thrown out in February 2010 when a higher court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. The court upheld the civil charges against Mills along with a 250,000-euro ($325,825) fine for damages.

Berlusconi has called himself “the biggest legal defendant in history.” The former premier spent about $430 million to defend himself and his companies against judicial action since he entered politics in 1994, he said last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net.

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