Berlusconi wants tax trial deferred

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iol pic wld silvio_italy AFP Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Rome - Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi on Friday called for the appeal trial for tax fraud against their client to be postponed until after next month's Italian elections, which the former premier is contesting.

Pietro Longo, a lawyer and a member of parliament for Berlusconi's conservative People of Freedom party, told a court in Milan that the media mogul and politician could not follow the trial because he was “busy in the electoral campaign.”

The prosecution retorted that proceedings should go ahead because Berlusconi is not running for prime minister in the February 24-25 vote, having said he was eyeing the economy ministry.

In a first instance ruling in October, Berlusconi was sentenced to four years' imprisonment - with a three-year remit - banned from holding public office for five years and excluded from managerial positions in private companies for three years.

Berlusconi and three other defendants were also ordered to refund Italy's tax authorities with 10 million euros. They have been asked to pay up by February 4, Nicolo Ghedini, another Berlusconi lawyer-cum-parliamentarian, said Friday.

The court was expected to rule on the suspension request later in the day.

A similar demand by Berlusconi's defence was turned down on Monday in the so-called bunga bunga trial where the scandal-prone politician is accused of underage prostitution and abuse of power.

However, judges on Thursday accepted to put on hold another trial related to the publication by a newspaper owned by Berlusconi's brother of a confidential wiretapped phone call that discredited an opposition politician.

Separately, prosecutors made their closing arguments in the mafia collusion appeal trial against a close aide of Berlusconi, Marcello Dell'Utri. He is accused of having acted as a go-between Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the media mogul.

Prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio asked for a seven-year prison term.

Dell'Utri, who worked for Berlusconi's advertising agency and now sits in parliament for his party, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment in a first instance ruling.

In his speech, Patronaggio said that through Dell'Utri, Cosa Nostra mobilized votes for Berlusconi's party in the 1994

elections. He also said that mafia bosses were on such good terms with Berlusconi that they sent him a king-sized Sicilian cake in the Christmas of 1986. - Sapa-dpa


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