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Mediaset cries foul in tax fraud case

Italy’s Mediaset has said it is ‘shocked’ at the latest developments in the investigation into alleged wrongdoing relating to the acquisition of content.

Italian prosecutors in the Mediatrade case – which has already seen the conviction of former prime minister and Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud relating to the acquisition of content at inflated prices – have called for the court to take into account the aggravating factor of ‘transnationality’, based on the alleged fraud having involved actions in a number of countries.

The case has seen Mediaset president Pier Silvio Berlusconi and chairman Fedele Confalonieri accused of tax fraud alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s associate Frank Agrama.

Prosecutors have alleged that Agrama is involved with an international organised criminal group. If the factor of ‘transnationality’ is accepted the statute of limitations on tax fraud could be extended by two years, from 2017 to 2019.

To give the defence time to study the new allegations, the hearing – at which Pier Silvio Berlusconi is due to give evidence – has been postponed to March 13.

Berlusconi’s lawyers described the latest development as “amazing” and “devoid of any basis in fact of in law”.

Mediaset issued a statement expressing “profound shock” at the latest development. Mediaset maintains that the rights were acquired at rates that were “absolutely reasonable” and that Pier Silvio Berlusconi and Confalonieri were not involved in any decision, and that a Rome court had already acquitted Berlusconi and other executives.

Mediaset has maintained that it has always acted within the law, notably after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a verdict against Silvio Berlusconi last August that resulted in the latter’s conviction.

The court at that time said that the former prime minister had developed an “illegal system” involving the acquisition of TV rights at inflated prices from foreign companies linked to Berlusconi created illicit tax benefits for his companies.

Mediaset said at the time that the value of purchases supplied fromBerlusconi associate Frank Agrama amounted to less than 8% of its total investment in content.