A British lawyer testified Thursday that he had invented accusations that Silvio Berlusconi paid him $600,000 to lie on the stand to protect the former Italian premier's business interests.
David Mills' testimony Thursday at Berlusconi's corruption trial in Milan undercuts prosecutors' case against the politician, and Berlusconi said afterward he was "relieved" and considered the case now closed.
Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid Mills to give false testimony in two 1990s trials to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest holding company from charges relating to the purchase of U.S. film rights.
Berlusconi has long denied the charges and accused prosecutors of pursuing politically-motivated cases against him.
Mills says he "invented" the story of the payoff to hide from British tax authorities a $600,000 payment from an Italian client, according to the LaPresse and ANSA news agencies. "It's all fiction," he said, speaking via videoconference from Britain with Berlusconi in the courtroom.
"I want to underline the complete innocence of Mr. Berlusconi, who has absolutely nothing to do with this $600,000," ANSA quoted him as saying. "I'm sorry for all the problems that were caused, and I hope that the truth comes out at the end of this process."
Mills said that in inventing the story "I adopted the strategy of least resistance, saying what I imagined (prosecutors) wanted me to say," according to the ANSA account.
Mills was convicted in 2009 on bribery charges; the conviction was overturned last year by Italy's highest court after the statute of limitations expired.
The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 16.
The corruption trial is one of three Berlusconi is currently facing in Milan; the others include charges Berlusconi paid a 17-year-old to have sex with him and then tried to cover it up. Both he and the young woman deny the charges.