ITALIAN prime minister Silvio Berlusconi slammed judges as “a cancer of democracy” during his first appearance at a trial for bribery, one of three court cases he is currently facing.
He was speaking during a break in the hearing in Milan where he is charged with paying his former British lawyer, David Mills, €400,000 to give false testimony about his business dealings.
He laid into prosecutors, accusing them of persecuting him for political reasons. Such magistrates “are the cancer of our democracy, responsible for repeated attempts at subversion”, he said, while praising judges who rejected prosecutors’ accusations as “heroes”.
Berlusconi branded the case “incredible, really surreal”, claiming “there is no motive for corruption, no proof that money was paid, nothing”.
He denied ever knowing Mills, who was found guilty in 2009 of receiving the money and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. An appeals court quashed the case in 2010 because it ran out of time.
Yesterday’s case was adjourned until May 16, when former Renault Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore will appear as a witness.
It was the first time the 74-year-old appeared before the tribunal to answer claims that he paid Mills to come up with testimony he knew to be false.
The Mills case is one of three pending trials in which Berlusconi is a defendant.
The prime minister is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer” and then trying to cover it up through abuse of power.
Berlusconi also faces allegations of fraud in the purchase of television distribution rights by Mediatrade, part of his Mediaset empire.
The prime minister branded the sex case “a joke” and a “trial by media” yesterday, but said he would appear in the dock “if it really happens” to give his version of events.
Berlusconi has faced numerous charges in the past, but has yet to be definitively convicted on any of them.
Last month, the lower house of parliament approved a bill to limit the length of a trial from commencement to verdict to three years, which would effectively wipe out the Mills case.
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