Berlusconi firm to pay EUR 560m fine
(MILAN) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest company will pay a court-ordered fine of 560 million euros ($793 million) to a rival media group but said Thursday it will also make a second appeal against the ruling.
The damages were ordered in compensation for Fininvest having wrested control of the leading Mondadori publishing house from Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) in 1990 after it bribed a judge to approve a company takeover.
"Following the sentence by Milan's appeal court on July 9 concerning the Mondadori affair, Fininvest has decided to pay the sum directly to CIR," the company said in a statement.
"The payment, which will be made before July 26, by no means implies the sentence has been accepted," it said, adding that the company "will turn to the final court of appeal" to challenge the order.
The Milan appeals court had reduced by a quarter the original 750-million-euro ($1-billion) damages claim that a civil court had ordered the holding company to pay in October 2009.
A judge ruled at the time that Berlusconi was "co-responsible" for the bribery of the judge who ruled in favour of Fininvest in the takeover battle.
That judge was convicted of corruption in 2007 and sentenced to two years and nine months in prison. The Fininvest lawyer who bribed him was given a sentence of one year and six months.
CIR's honorary president is Berlusconi rival Carlo de Benedetti. The group runs the weekly news magazine L'Espresso and the left-leaning daily newspaper La Repubblica -- avid chroniclers of the premier's legal woes and sex scandals.
The fine represents a major setback for Berlusconi.
Days before the court pronounced its verdict, he had attempted to push through a controversial law proposal that would have suspended such fines pending a final ruling by the country's highest court.
But the last-minute proposal, added to a wider package of austerity measures to be debated by parliament, was widely criticised as a bid to shield Fininvest and the premier was forced to withdraw it.
Berlusconi cannot be prosecuted in the Mondadori case, as the facts were legally prescribed in 2001 -- meaning the period for legal action had expired.
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