Berlusconi ‘to attend his four trials’

4 Marzo 2011, di Redazione Wall Street Italia

Milan – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi wants to attend all of his four trials set to move forward in Milan over the coming weeks, his lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini told reporters Friday.

Ghedini met with the president of the Milan court, Livia Pomodoro, on Friday to try to work out a schedule that would allow the premier, who denies any wrongdoing, to get to the three corruption trials and one sex trial.

Ghedini’s apparent willingness to get Berlusconi into court would appear to contradict parliamentary moves to have the Ruby case taken out of the Milan prosecutors’ hands and put before a special ministerial court, where it would likely be thrown out.

The lawyer indicated that unlike in previous cases, where the premier largely shunned appearances, Berlusconi would seek to battle against the charges in open court.

Experts said the move might be a reaction to recent polls which have given the centre-left opposition a slight edge over his conservative coalition for the first time since he swept back to power in 2008.

A trial for alleged tax fraud on the sale of film rights by Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire resumed last Monday but the premier did not attend.

However, Ghedini said Berlusconi would probably show up for the next hearing on April 11.

The case is the first of the graft trials that will see the premier facing charges over the next few weeks, while a fourth trial, for the alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby, gets under way on April 6.

The graft trials were reactivated after Italy’s Constitutional Court in January partly lifted the latest of the premier’s judicial shields.

The indictment for the sex trial, which was not covered by the shield, came after weeks of wiretap leaks that engrossed the nation.

Ghedini said earlier this week: “four trials in Milan for the premier is a situation without precedent; it is beyond normality”.

Berlusconi, who has repeatedly vowed to press on until the end of his term in office in 2013, has claimed the Milan prosecutors are trying to oust him from office and he has announced judicial reforms to rein them in.

The second graft trial, in which the premier is accused of paying British tax lawyer David Mills for allegedly favourable testimony, is set to restart on March 11.

The third corruption trial, into alleged film-sale tax irregularities by a Mediaset unit, Mediatrade, starts from scratch on Saturday, March 5.

The Ruby trial is the most keenly awaited and the one that finally appears to have knocked Berlusconi’s standings in the polls after months in which despite his judicial woes his ratings were buoyant.

The latest poll showed that, if an election were called now, the divided and fractious centre left might be favourite.

In the Ruby case, Berlusconi is also accused of abusing his position to get the teen Moroccan belly dancer and runaway out of police custody by saying she was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

He has said he acted in good faith to avoid a diplomatic incident and believed what he had been told.

Ghedini has said he intends to call Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, to the witness stand because of “contradictions” in her statements to police.

Both Berlusconi and Ruby deny ever having sex and she says money she received from him was a gift.

Ruby made a splash Thursday night at the high-society Vienna debutantes’ ball but has said she now wants to emigrate to Mexico with her fiance’ to get out of the limelight.