Italian judges on Saturday ended
one of the most prominent among the several trials involving Silvio Berlusconi, 75, Italy's richest media entrepreneur and controversial political figure of the past two decades.
Prosecutors had been seeking a five-year prison sentence accusing Berlusconi of paying Mills to provide untruthful court testimony in a prior trial, a charge which the flamboyant Italian always denied.
The trial ended with no verdict as time runned out due to an Act
”) issued while Berlusconi was in office in 2005 which reduced the statute of limitations from 15 to 10 years.
"I am very happy, a conviction would have been wrong," David Mills said
, as Berlusconi is "completely innocent".
"Once again Berlusconi has been saved from facing up to his responsibilities by the statute of limitations," former anti-corruption magistrate Antonio Di Pietro, now head of the Italia dei Valori
(Italy of Values) party, said
in a statement.
Berlusconi still faces a number of trials on different issues, including charges linked to his Mediaset broadcasting company; charges of paying for sex with Karima el-Mahroug, aka Ruby the Heart-breaker
, an underage Moroccan runaway-turned-nightclub dancer; abuse of office relating to Karima el-Mahroug's release from detention; and abuse of office
concerning the illegal publication of wiretapped conversations in a family newspaper in 2005.
Berlusconi has repeatedly accused what he calls toghe rosse
, or red gowns, meaning politically biased left-wing or "Bolshevik
" judges who allegedly mount politically-motivated smear campaigns to destroy him.
as prime minister in November as the euro zone crisis menaced Italy.
According to the latest poll by the EMG Institute, the popularity rating of Berlusconi's political party Il Popolo della Libertà
(People of Freedom) is at a record low of 22.4 percent, while centre-left Partito Democratico
(Democrat Party) is at 26.4 percent.