The trial of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on a tax fraud charge reopened Monday after a year, but was immediately adjourned to January. The premier was busy with a global food summit in Rome and did not attend the hearing in a Milan courtroom. His lawyers said Berlusconi is unavailable for the trial due to his engagements as premier until Jan. 18.
Judge Edoardo D’Avossa ruled that there will be two technical hearings before that date – one later this month, the other one in December. But he said that trial will start in earnest on Jan. 18. Berlusconi is accused of tax fraud involving his broadcaster Mediaset’s purchase of TV rights. He denies wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of politically motivated magistrates.
The trial had not been possible because of an immunity law shielding Berlusconi from prosecution while in office. But a top Italian court overturned the legislation last month, on grounds it was unconstitutional, paving the way for the trial to restart. There are another 11 defendants in the case, including Mediaset officials and British lawyer David Mills. Mills has been convicted in a separate corruption case also involving Berlusconi.
After Jan. 18, the trial will take place every Monday. If Berlusconi has institutional engagements, the hearings will take place on a Saturday, the judge ruled. Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said the trial would take about 2 years to conclude. He said the statute of limitations kicks in in 2013. Another trial where Berlusconi figures as a defendant is scheduled to resume Nov. 27.