Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been on trial for bribery and corruption, escaped jail on a technicality this week. The court “accepted as proved” the charge that Berlusconi funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to two Roman judges in 1985. But the court ruled that the statute of limitations for that offense, “simple corruption,” had run out. The court also said that prosecutors had not proved their specific claim that the judges had been bribed to rule against one of Berlusconi’s business rivals in a takeover deal. Political opponents said the ruling on the corruption count showed that the prime minister was guilty, even if he evaded punishment, and that he should step down. Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man, disagreed. Boasting that he had been cleared, Berlusconi declared: “Better late than never.”
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