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Berlusconi Corruption Case: Italian PM Goes To Court For Bribery Charges

09/19/11 03:38 PM ET   AP

Berlusconi

MILAN — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in the spotlight once again for revelations about his sex life, was in court Monday for the resumption of one of four trials against him.

The premier made no comment as his motorcade entered Milan's tribunal via a side entrance, though he later joked briefly with reporters inside the courtroom. "I'm fine, it's you who look bad," he quipped.

Berlusconi is accused of bribing British lawyer David Mills to lie in court in the 1990s to protect his business interests. Mills was convicted in 2009 of having taken a $600,000 bribe, but the verdict was overturned when Italy's highest criminal court ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing and accused the Milan magistrates of launching politically motivated prosecutions against him.

Also on Monday, the court decided to cut some 10 defense witnesses from a list of witnesses sought by the defense, saying they were "superfluous," the ANSA news agency reported.

Prosecutors want the trial to finish before the statute of limitations kicks in, sometime around January. But Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said the court's move violated a defendant's right to a fair trial.

"They have eliminated these witnesses and for us it's impossible to defend ourselves," Ghedini said. "So much for fair trial. This is trial impossible."

Mills is scheduled to testify on Oct. 24 as a defense witness, ANSA said.

In addition to the Mills case and two others involving his business interests, Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old to have sex with him during the frequent dinner parties he threw for young women at his residences.

Both he and the woman deny the accusations.

Businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini is under investigation for allegedly paying the escorts, showgirls and would-be starlets to attend the parties. Tarantini insists he only paid them travel expenses to attend to try to curry favor with the premier and further his business interests. He says Berlusconi never knew the women were paid.

The case, however, has further embarrassed the premier because transcripts of his telephone conversations with Tarantini have now become public, as they can once deposited in court.

Over the weekend, Italian newspapers were full of excerpts from the transcripts, prompting opposition leaders to demand an inquiry into whether government aircraft flew any escorts to the parties.

Concern was also growing over whether the billionaire media mogul premier who allegedly boasted in one intercepted chat that he "did only eight" women in one night can concentrate on rescuing Italy from its severe economic crisis.

The man tapped as Berlusconi's political heir, Angelino Alfano, insisted at a rally Sunday that the premier wouldn't resign despite the scandal. Berlusconi has said he will serve until legislative elections scheduled for 2013.

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Filed by Clare Richardson  |