Italy's Berlusconi to face yet another trial

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 07, 2012 11:48 AM
Italy's Berlusconi to face yet another trial

MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi is to stand trial next month on charges of revealing confidential information in a case related to a 2005 banking scandal, adding to a string of legal woes, the former prime minister's lawyer said on Tuesday.

Berlusconi, who resigned in November beset by scandals and financial market turmoil, is already facing three separate trials on charges including corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

"All as expected. We've lost count of the number of trials," said Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini. The trial will start on March 15.

The latest case stems from allegations that Berlusconi pushed for the publication in a newspaper owned by his brother of a recorded conversation that should have remained secret because of an ongoing investigation.

The conversation took place at the time of insurer Unipol's bid for a bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, in 2005. The bid later fell through and triggered an investigation for possible financial crimes by some of the dealmakers.

In the phone call Piero Fassino, then Berlusconi's main political rival as leader of the biggest center-left party, can be heard asking the head of Unipol: "So, do we own a bank?."

The conversation did not suggest that the politician committed a crime, but it was kept by prosecutors investigating possible inappropriate interference in the case.

The head of the company used by the magistrates to record the conservation has been convicted for stealing the audio tape and making it available to Berlusconi and his brother, publisher of newspaper Il Giornale.

Berlusconi, who denies any wrongdoing and says politically biased magistrates in Milan are persecuting him, is accused of pushing for Il Giornale to print the transcript to damage the centre left. In a hearing on Tuesday Berlusconi said he had not listened to the tape and did not order its publication, Ghedini said.

Berlusconi has long railed against prosecutors for using wiretaps in cases against him, saying he was being spied on. His government also tried, but failed, to curb the publication of leaked, wiretapped conversations by newspapers.

(Reporting by Ilaria Polleschi; Writng by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Louise Ireland)