Source AP ©

Italy to get Swiss bank documents linked to Berlusconi investigation

More bank documents linked to an investigation of Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset empire will be given to Italy , the highest Swiss court ruled, according to the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

With the decision, the Federal Tribunal rejected appeals from the Berlusconi side against the Swiss prosecutor's decision to cooperate with the Italian investigation, the office said in a statement.

The decision refers to documents concerning bank accounts frozen in Switzerland since October 2005. The accounts contain more than 150 million Swiss francs (US$136 million; EUR91.71 million), according to earlier reports.

Other bank documents have already been provided to the Milan prosecutor's office. Switzerland has received more than 20 requests from Italian authorities for assistance in their investigations linked to Berlusconi.

The supreme court has rejected all attempts to block the assistance, and the Swiss prosecutor's office has opened its own investigation into whether money laundering was involved.

Milan authorities have been investigating alleged fictitious and elevated payments for film and television rights by Mediaset, which is controlled by Berlusconi's family through its Fininvest SpA holding company.

Italian prosecutors say Mediaset purchased TV rights for U.S. movies before 1999 through two "offshore" companies and falsely declared the costs to reduce the tax bill.

Berlusconi, who has been Italian premier twice, has a long history of legal troubles linked to his Milan-based business interests, but so far he has either been acquitted or seen cases against him dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. He has always maintained his innocence.

Mediaset's three networks are the main private TV rivals to RAI's three public channels.

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