Company: Italy Premier Innocent
Jun. 30, 2001
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ROME (AP) _ Premier Silvio Berlusconi's holding company, Fininvest SpA, on Friday denied that the conservative leader the falsified its accounts as alleged by prosecutors.
The Italian daily La Repubblica reported Friday that Milan prosecutors had asked to initiate new proceedings against the media mogul on charges he allegedly falsified Fininvest's books by $678 million between 1989 and 1996.
The charges are related in part to Berlusconi's offshore company All Iberian, which has already been the subject of judicial proceedings in the numerous cases that have been brought against Berlusconi, one of the world's wealthiest men, over the years.
In 1996 prosecutors alleged Berlusconi and his associates doctored books to conceal some $6.6 million in illegal contributions to former Socialist Premier Bettino Craxi through All Iberian.
The conservative leader was sentenced to two years and four months in prison in 1998 but an appeals court cleared him a year later, citing the expiration of the statute of limitations.
On Friday, Fininvest issued a statement saying the new inquiry lacked any foundation.
``Fininvest reiterates that it has always abided by the law,'' the statement said. ``The company ... denounces the serious violation of the right to defend oneself.''
La Repubblica said the investigation covered 25 people, including Berlusconi's brother, Paolo Berlusconi and his longtime business ally and friend Fedele Confalonieri, who was Fininvest chairman in 1994, the year Berlusconi briefly served as premier for the first time.
Berlusconi, who came to power for the second time after his center-right coalition won May 13 elections, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in all the cases and portrayed himself as the target of a political vendetta by prosecutors he claims sympathize with the left.