Silvio Berlusconi fails to win court order


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The Independent Online

Silvio Berlusconi has failed in an emergency bid to obtain a High Court order preventing evidence being taken in a UK court relating to corruption allegations.

Italy's former prime minister made the application for an interim injunction pending an attempt to bring a full-scale legal challenge over the issue.

He sought the order to prevent English lawyer David Mills giving video-link evidence to Milan from City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Monday.

His application was considered in private and refused by Mr Justice Bean, sitting in London.

Mills and his wife, Tessa Jowell, a former Labour Cabinet minister, separated in 2006 when she admitted being unaware that he had paid off part of their mortgage with £350,000 at the centre of an Italian bribery case involving Berlusconi.

Mills was charged along with Berlusconi with corruption by the Milan District Court.

He was convicted in his absence in February 2009, but acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court under Italy's statute of limitations in February 2010.

Berlusconi is facing a trial - previously suspended under a temporary immunity law - on bribery allegations involving Mills.

He denies wrongdoing and has complained that the charges are politically motivated.

Berlusconi's application for an injunction was made against the UK Central Authority for Mutual Legal Assistance (UKCA), which is responsible for processing requests to and from other countries for evidence in criminal investigations.

On April 11 the Milan District Court made a request to UKCA for a number of witnesses resident in the UK, including Mills, to give evidence from London in connection with the Berlusconi case.

The UKCA acts on behalf of the Home Secretary, who is named as defendant in Berlusconi's judicial review application.

Mills was first summoned to appear before Senior District Judge Howard Riddle at Westminster Magistrates' Court on October 28 and a TV link was set up with Milan.

Berlusconi was then still Italian prime minister - he stepped down on November 12 - and obtained an adjournment because he said he had to deal with the euro crisis. The hearing was reschedule for next Monday.

Yesterday, Berlusconi's solicitors, DLA Piper, applied on paper for an injunction preventing the hearing arranged for next Monday from taking place until after the conclusion of the judicial review proceedings - a process that could take weeks or several months.

Mr Justice Bean said the Italian prosecution had sent a note accusing Berlusconi of attempting to "delay or derail proceedings which have already been subject to tactical litigation of the most sophisticated form".

The judge said: "On the material before me there would appear to be considerable force in that submission."

He ruled that issues being raised by Berlusconi could be dealt with at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Monday.