Berlusconi, son probed for tax evasion; lawyer says "nothing new"
Lawyers for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described as "nothing new" reports Friday that the premier and his son Piersilvio are being investigated in Rome for tax evasion in connection with their family-owned media company, DPA reported.
Berlusconi is currently the subject of a probe by prosecutors in Milan relating to allegations that divisions of his Mediaset company bought television and cinema rights from US firms and then resold them to other Mediaset divisions at inflated prices, in an effort to avoid taxes. The premier and his son have denied any wrongdoing.
The investigation in Rome is part of the same case, but with the competency this time falling to prosecutors in the Italian capital, where some of the Mediaset companies are based, Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told the ANSA news agency.
"It (the investigation) is certainly nothing new. It is a minor branch of the investigation which is already taking place in Milan," another of the premier's lawyers, Piero Longo said.
Mediaset controls Italy's largest private television network including three nationally broadcast channels.
Since entering politics in the early 1990s, the 74-year-old Berlusconi has been the subject of several investigations and court cases on charges of corruption, embezzlement and other financial crimes.
In most cases he has either been acquitted, or the statutes of limitations have expired. In addition, the premier has benefited from several laws introduced by his conservative government and then applied retroactively - such as making false accounting a misdemeanour instead of a crime.
During his third and current term in office, Berlusconi's government has also introduced controversial immunity from prosecution legislation, which would be applied to highest state officials, including the prime minister.
Critics, including the centre-left opposition, accuse Berlusconi of abusing his political power in order to overcome his legal woes.
But Berlusconi says he is a victim of leftist prosecutors carrying out a political vendetta against him.