Switzerland to assist Italy in Mediaset case

Mediaset dominates the Italian media landscape Keystone

The justice authorities have been authorised to provide Italy with documents it has requested as part of its investigation into Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset group.

This content was published on May 20, 2005 - 15:50

The Lausanne-based Swiss Federal Court on Friday threw out three appeals aimed at stopping the transfer of the bank documents.

On February 3 the justice authorities agreed to an Italian request for legal assistance in the case of Mediaset, which is being investigated for tax evasion. Three appeals were subsequently lodged against that decision.

The ruling by the country’s supreme court will allow the transfer of documents relating to the Swiss bank accounts of three offshore companies linked to the business empire of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi.

Justice officials in Lugano, in the southern canton of Ticino, had seized the documents following a request for assistance from prosecutors in Milan in June 2004.

Allegations

Italian prosecutors launched their investigation into Berlusconi’s Mediaset group in 1996. The company is suspected of using offshore firms to buy film rights and of defrauding the tax authorities by vastly overstating the cost.

Prosecutors allege the scam netted Mediaset around SFr265 million ($215 million), part of which is held in a bank in Lugano.

Berlusconi is one of 14 people connected with the alleged scandal who could be brought before the courts to answer charges of fiscal fraud, false accounting and falling behind with tax payments. Others include the Mediaset president, Fedele Confalonieri, a Swiss banker and the head of the Berlusconi family’s Fininvest holding in Ticino.

Switzerland has already provided legal assistance to Italy in its investigation, the first in 1996, followed by additional requests in 2002, and finally in June 2004.

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Key facts

Milan prosecutors are investigating 14 people in the Mediaset case, among them Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
They are accused of false accounting and tax evasion in connection with the purchase of film rights using offshore companies.
The scam is said to have netted around SFr265 million.
The Federal Court ruling means documents related to these companies' bank accounts can now be passed to Italy.

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