TV stake probed

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ROME (Reuter) - Corruption investigators probing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest media empire have focused their attention on the Telepiu pay television network in which Fininvest officially has a 10 per cent stake.

They are trying to establish who owns what at Telepiu, whether ownership rules have been breached and if bribes were paid to cover up the infringements. Telepiu has several hundred thousand subscribers and one of its principal selling points is its exclusive coverage of live soccer from Italy's Serie A.

Subscribers with a decoder can tune in to a game live on Sunday night, the contract signed with the soccer authorities last year having ended the tradition of all matches kicking off at the same time.

Leading Fininvest officials including Mr Berlusconi's brother Paolo have admitted paying bribes to finance police in return for favourable tax audits of companies in the group. But their confessions did not include Telepiu, where investigators suspect finance police may have been bribed to hush up the true size of Fininvest's stake.