Berlusconi firm fined 560 mn euros in bribery appeal: Ansa

MILAN, July 9, 2011 (AFP) - A Milan appeals court Saturday ordered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's holding company Fininvest to pay 560 million euros to rival media group CIR in a bribery case, a judge told the ANSA news agency.

In October 2009, a Milan civil court had ruled that Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) was entitled to 750 million euros ($1 billion) in compensation from Fininvest which wrested control of the leading Mondadori publishing house from CIR in 1990.

(AFP FILES) This combo shows a file photo taken of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) and a file photo of Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) honorary president, Carlo de Benedetti

A judge ruled at the time that Berlusconi was "co-responsible" for the bribery of a judge, who decided in favour of Fininvest in the takeover battle.

The judge and several lawyers were convicted of corruption in 2007.

CIR, whose honorary president is Berlusconi rival Carlo de Benedetti, controlled the newsweekly L'Espresso and the left-leaning daily newspaper La Repubblica, both avid chroniclers of the sex scandals that have been dogging the Italian premier.

In an appeal by Fininvest, judges on Saturday adjusted the fine and ruled that the damages incurred by CIR amounted to 540 million euros as at the date of the initial judgment, and a total 560 million with interest, ANSA said.

The fine was payable immediately, it added.

The ruling represents a major setback for Berlusconi who on Tuesday withdrew a controversial law proposal to suspend all company fines above 10 million euros imposed by lower courts and over 20 million by appeals courts pending a final ruling by the country's highest court.

The proposal, included at the last minute in an austerity plan as it was to go before parliament for debate, was widely criticised as a bid to shield Fininvest from paying any fine the appeals judges may impose.

Earlier this week, the prime minister said he was "certain that the appeals court of Milan cannot but annul the civil court judgment, which was absolutely unfounded and profoundly unjust".

He defended the proposed amendment as a means of protecting companies from financial troubles caused by "erroneous" court judgments, and said workers in companies that flounder under such fines should blame opposition parties for their "shameful" resistance to the now cancelled measure.

The premier is currently facing three trials, including one for allegedly paying to have sex with a Moroccan girl nicknamed "Ruby" when she was just 17 years old, and another for bribing a witness to lie about his business dealings.

Other news