REPORTING FROM ROME -– Italian prosecutors will seek to bring former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to trial on tax evasion charges connected with the purchase of Hollywood television and movie rights by Mediaset, his giant media company, Italian media reported Thursday.
The prosecutors allege that Berlusconi and 11 other people were involved in a $13-million tax fraud resulting from false billing of more than $288 million, with inflated prices permitting Mediaset to pay lower taxes, reports said.
Among the people prosecutors hope to bring to court are Berlusconi’s son, Piersilvio, who is the second in command at Mediaset and heads the group’s television division, RTI, and Frank Agrama, a Hollywood producer, who is accused of buying rights and reselling them to Mediaset in 2003-04.
A Rome court will decide whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial. Charges in another branch of the same investigation were dropped by a Milan judge late last year for insufficient evidence.
Berlusconi, 75, is a defendant in two ongoing trials: In one case nearing completion, prosecutors have asked that Berlusconi be sentenced to prison for five years for allegedly bribing a British lawyer to give false testimony in a tax evasion investigation. In another trial that just got underway, he is accused of paying for sex with an underage Moroccan dancer and abusing his office to get her out of police custody.
He was indicted Feb. 7 on charges of abuse of office in connection with alleged misappropriation of wiretap transcripts. He has been indicted or tried on a number of occasions on charges of corruption, tax evasion, false accounting and others, but has not been found guilty either because he was acquitted, the statute of limitations ran out or the charges were later decriminalized, usually by laws passed by his parliamentary majority.
Berlusconi has long maintained that he is persecuted by politically motivated magistrates. He said Thursday that Milan judges in the corruption trials “want to destroy me.”
Photo: Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts during the presentation of politician Antonio Razzi's book "My Clean Hands" early this month in the Italian parliament in Rome. The Clean Hands campaign was a judicial investigation into political corruption in the 1990s. Credit: Andreas Solaro / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images