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Europe

Prosecutor Wants Jail Time for Berlusconi

A state prosecutor called Friday on a Milan court to impose an eight-year jail sentence on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of bribing judges.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was not in court on Friday

Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini said Berlusconi had kept up regular payments to judges in Rome to help his company Fininvest in a corporate takeover battle stemming from the mid-1980s.

The 68-year-old prime minister was not in court as the prosecutor summed up in what's been called the SME case.

Berlusconi stand's accused of bribing judges to block the takeover of the semi-state food group SME by a competitor to his Fininvest holding company in 1985.

Boccassini, due to complete her summing up on Friday afternoon, was expected to press the court to sentence Berlusconi to a jail term. He faces a maximum term of eight years if found guilty. The verdict is expected on Dec. 3.

The prosecution investigation however found the judge-bribing went beyond the SME case, and presented one $434,000 (€336,000) bank transfer in Switzerland in 1991 as evidence of a full-scale bribe scandal involving the media magnate's holding company.

Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini in court on Friday

Boccassini (photo) said the payment, which went from Fininvest to an account held by one of its lawyers, Cesare Previti, and immediately on to a third Swiss bank account held by Rome judge Renato Squillante, was "documentary proof" linking Berlusconi's Fininvest with bribery and corruption.

Squillante, head of investigations at the Rome bench at the time of the transaction, was convicted of corruption last year and sentenced to eight years in jail.

Previti, a close confidant of Berlusconi's as well as being an MP in his Forza Italia party, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 11 years, reduced to five on appeal.

Both men are currently appealing those sentences.

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