An Italian court acquitted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday after he was accused of bribing a witness in a previous underage prostitution case.
The allegations leveled against ‘Cavalier’ were that he paid Neapolitan singer and confidant Mariano Apicella €157,000 to lie in his defence.
But a court in Rome released Berlusconi after prosecutor Roberto Felici said he had no case to answer.
Judges also acquitted Apicello of the alleged perjury after the deadline for sentencing for such a crime had expired.
The media tycoon and current senator was previously accused of soliciting sexual favors from 17-year-old exotic dancer Karima El Mahroug (known as “Ruby the Heartstealer) in 2009, shortly after he began his third term as prime minister.
Berlusconi was eventually cleared of all charges in 2014, as an appeals court claimed he could not have known Mahroug — who he claimed thought she was the niece of the late Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak — was still a minor.
Nevertheless, the then prime minister’s alleged behavior while in office — with reports of sordid ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties involving Apicella himself circulating widely — contributed significantly to his political demise in the early 2010s.
In response to Thursday’s ruling, Berlusconi said he was “happy and satisfied” with the result, claiming he “appreciated that the public prosecutor himself sought an acquittal.”
“The elements presented by the defense,” he added, “made it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that there were no elements of ambiguity in this affair.”
Although such a trial may have worked in Berlusconi’s favor, it is far from the end of his legal vicissitudes. The former prime minister — whose Forza Italia party recently joined Italy’s new right-wing government — is accused of bribing 24 witnesses in a separate case that is expected to be concluded in January next year.
If convicted, Berlusconi could potentially face prison time, with prosecutors seeking a six-year sentence.