Berlusconi back in court


Milan - After being convicted three times in less than a year, Italy's billionaire former prime minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi stands trial again today on charges of false accounting.

The opposition centre-right leader could face another sentence of at least two years if found guilty of fraud while channelling funds to his old friend and ex-prime minister Bettino Craxi and the now-defunct Italian Socialist Party. As in his other trials, Mr Berlusconi (62) has always proclaimed his innocence, saying the payments were destined for a Tunisian business partner. Mr Berlusconi, who governed Italy for seven months in 1994, says the accusations are part of a plot by left-leaning Milan magistrates to blacken his name.

Today's trial is the second part of the so-called All Iberian trial, named after a Channel Islands company through which part of some 20 billion lire (£7.5 million) earmarked for the Socialist Party was passed in the early 1990s.