Berlusconi prosecutors demand five-year jail term

Silvio Berlusconi, 8 Dec 11 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Berlusconi accuses prosecutors of pursuing a political vendetta against him

Italian prosecutors in Milan have asked for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to be sentenced to five years in jail on bribery charges.

He is accused of paying British lawyer David Mills $600,000 (£382,000) to lie about his business interests.

But the case has run on for so long that Mr Berlusconi, 75, is unlikely to go to jail even if found guilty.

He is also on trial separately for tax fraud and alleged sex with an underage prostitute.

A case is also due to start on 15 March where Mr Berlusconi is charged with revealing confidential information over a 2005 banking scandal. In all cases he says he is innocent.

"It is certain, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty," prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale told a Milan court on Wednesday. He also accused Mr Berlusconi's defence of being entirely "based on false documents".

The case, dating back to 1997, could be dropped later this year under Italy's statute of limitations if Mr Berlusconi's lawyers lodge an appeal.

In December Mr Mills told a court he was "deeply ashamed" for falsely claiming that Mr Berlusconi had given him $600,000.

Mr Mills said the money had actually come from an associate he had not wanted to admit dealing with.

Mr Mills, who is separated from his wife, former Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, was convicted of perjury in his absence in February 2009.

But a year later he was acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court under the statute of limitations.

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