An Italian court ended a corruption trial against Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday, ruling that the statute of limitations had run out on the case in which the former Italian prime minister was accused of paying a $600,000 bribe to a British lawyer.
Berlusconi was facing a five-year prison sentence in the case, which marked one of the most prominent scandals involving the controversial ex-premier. He was accused of bribing the lawyer, David Mills, to withhold evidence on his behalf in two trials dating back to the 1990s.
Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the trial was part of a campaign by his political opponents to destroy him.
He was not present at the courtroom when the judges read out their ruling after about two hours of deliberation.
Mills was convicted in 2009 in a separate trial and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. But the lawyer has remained at large as the case was thrown out in February 2010 when the Court of Cassation ruled that the trial was beyond the limit for prosecution set by Italian law.
The 75-year-old ex-premier has been involved in a string of legal cases since he entered politics in the mid-1990s. In some cases he has been acquitted, while others have expired under the statute of limitations.
He is currently facing three other trials on charges of fraud, illegal publication of wiretaps and underage prostitution.