Italy’s Berlusconi acquitted of bribing witness in underage prostitution case

An Italian court on Thursday acquitted former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of bribing a witness in a 2013 underage prostitution case, giving the veteran politician a boost weeks after he was re-elected to parliament.

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Berlusconi was accused of paying Italian singer Mariano Apicella 157,000 euros ($162,000) to lie in an earlier trial where he was accused of paying to have sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer.

Berlusconi, leader of the right-wing Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party that supports Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s newly installed government, was eventually acquitted in that case.

He pleaded not guilty in the subsequent bribery trial and Rome prosecutor Roberto Felici told the court on Thursday that he should be dismissed because there was no case to answer.

The judges also cleared Apicella of accepting bribes and acquitted him of alleged perjury because the deadline to reach a verdict for such a crime had passed.

Apicella was a regular guest singer at many of Berlusconi’s so-called Bunga Bunga parties that sparked the scandal that contributed to the media mogul’s fall as prime minister in 2011, marking the end of his fourth government.

The defense said Apicella had received monthly contributions from Berlusconi since 2002 for fees or donations, unrelated to the charges before the court.

The trial in Rome is one of three connected cases that have been prosecuted in different cities due to territorial jurisdiction.

In a separate case pending in a Milan court, Berlusconi is accused of bribing 24 witnesses, mostly young guests at his evening parties. The prosecutor requested in May that he be sentenced to six years in prison. Berlusconi has denied the charge and a verdict is not expected before January 2023.

Last year, a court in Siena acquitted Berlusconi of bribing another witness for his parties. The prosecutor has appealed the sentence, but no new trial date has been set.


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