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Berlusconi cleared in Mediatrade TV rights trial

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

ROME, March 7 (Reuters) - Italy's highest appeals court upheld a ruling clearing Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud in connection with his Mediatrade broadcasting rights firm, issuing the first of a series of verdicts the former prime minister faces this month.

The decision late on Wednesday clears Berlusconi, 76, of accusations that Mediatrade, the broadcast rights unit of his Mediaset group, acquired film and television rights at inflated prices to evade 10 million euros ($13 million) in taxes in 2004.

On Thursday, a court in Milan was expected to rule on a separate case involving a leaked telephone wiretap relating to an attempted takeover of Banca Nazionale di Lavoro by insurer Unipol

Berlusconi's trial on charges of paying for sex with a juvenile prostitute is expected to wind up on March 18 while a separate trial over broadcast rights is expected to conclude on March 23.

The rulings come in the middle of a complex Italian political stalemate following last week's inconclusive election, which left no party able to form a government on its own.

Berlusconi's centre-right formation is the second-strongest group in parliament. But its prospects of a return to government have been held back by the refusal of centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani to accept a "grand coalition" with his longstanding rivals.

($1 = 0.7692 euros) (Reporting By Virginia Alimenti; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130307/berlusconi-cleared-mediatrade-tv-rights-trial