Ending a bitter legal battle that has lasted seven years, Italy's highest Appeals Court has acquitted premier Silvio Berlusconi of bribery charges relating to his media empire, Fininvest. However, the Court did confirm sentences for several of the multi-million dollar group's executives.
Berlusconi and other Fininvest executives had been accused in 1994 of paying bribes to Italian tax inspectors. In 1998, a court found Berlusconi guilty and sentenced him to 2 years and 9 months in prison.
While the country's top Appeals Court acquitted Berlusconi, it did confirm guilty verdicts previously handed out to Massimo Maria Berruti, Berlusconi's lawyer who is also a member of Parliament, and Salvatore Sciascia, a former Fininvest executive.
Fininvest, a Milan-based holding company created by Berlusconi, controls Italy's largest private broadcaster, Mediaset, film production and distribution company Medusa, a publishing outfit, an insurance company and a football team.
Earlier this month, Italy's Supreme Court acquitted Berlusconi of separate charges of false accounting during the acquisition of Medusa in the late 1980s, clearing him of a 16-month prison sentence.
However, Berlusconi still faces some charges of illegal financial transactions linked to Fininvest. 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.