Italy's Supreme Court has acquitted prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi of charges of false accounting during the acquisition of leading film outfit Medusa Film in the late 1980s.

The verdict clears Berlusconi of a 16-month prison sentence handed out by a court in 1997. It also confirms an appeals court verdict in February 2000.

Nevertheless, Berlusconi, who heads a multi-million dollar business empire comprising Mediaset, the country's largest private TV network, a publishing company, a soccer team and an insurance company, still faces some charges of illegal financial transactions linked to his Fininvest holding company.

Milan prosecutors have accused Mediaset of carrying out illegal transactions in order to obtain tax breaks that were ratified by Berlusconi's government in 1994. An EU Commission investigation into the matter is also underway, and the financial guard has twice searched Mediaset's Milan headquarters in the last three months looking for evidence.

Last week, formally addressing an issue that has dogged him for years, Berlusconi presented a draft law to Parliament proposing that an independent commission review government legislation for potential conflicts of interest between his business empire and his role in government.