Mediaset has issued a strongly worded statement stating that it had always acted fully within the law, in relation to its conduct around TV rights acquisitions.
This was in response to the damming verdict of the Italian Supreme Court in rejecting an appeal against the conviction of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Mediaset reacted after the Supreme Court made public the reasons for Berlusconi’s earlier conviction for tax fraud, saying that the media tycoon and politician had developed an “illegal system” to accumulate wealth abroad and obtain tax benefits for his companies.
According to the court, Mediaset developed a system whereby the acquisition of TV rights at inflated prices from foreign companies linked to Berlusconi created illicit tax benefits for his companies.
According to Mediaset, it had over the last decade paid the Italian state about €6.5 billion (US$8.6 billion) in taxes, whereas the alleged tax fraud would only have saved it about €7.3 million, or about 0.1% of the total paid.
Mediaset responded by saying that the value of purchases supplied from Berlusconi associate Frank Agrama amounted to less than 8% of its total investment in content. It also cited its rejection of an earlier opportunity to eliminate any risk of criminal liability through a tax amnesty as evidence that it had acted in good faith.
Berlusconi’s lawyers said the former premier had never dealt personally with the purchase of TV rights and had no role in reporting the income or in the operational decisions of the relevant companies.
Earlier in the week the Italian media giant’s shares had been suspended after it took excessive losses, with analysts citing general worries about Berlusconi’s conviction and the possible resulting government crisis.