David Mills, the estranged husband of the British minister Tessa Jowell, has lost an appeal against a sentence for accepting a £366,000 bribe from Silvio Berlusconi in 1997, a ruling which is likely to weaken the Italian Prime Minister's defence in the case.
Mills will appeal against the ruling at Italy's highest court, his lawyer said. If he is convicted there, he will be forced to start serving the prison sentence. The court also confirmed that Mills, a lawyer, would have to pay some €250,000 (£230,000) in damages to the Italian government.
Mr Berlusconi had secured immunity in this and other trials against him under a law passed by his government, but Italy's top court this month ruled that his temporary protection from prosecution while he held office violated the constitution.
Mr Berlusconi has been charged with paying Mills the bribe from alleged "secret funds" held by his Mediaset television empire for allegedly withhold incriminating details about the tycoon-turned-politician. Mr Berlusconi maintains that Milan judges trying his cases are politically motivated and has vowed to stay on as prime minister.
"This once more confirms that no trials can be held in Milan when they, even indirectly, are linked to Berlusconi," said the Prime Minister's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini.
"This decision is completely illogical," he said, adding that he believed it would be overturned in another appeal.