ROME – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search) was cleared Monday of charges of false bookkeeping in a case involving funding for the former Socialist party, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Nicolo Ghedini told The Associated Press that a Milan court cleared Berlusconi because, under revised Italian penal law, false bookkeeping has been decriminalized.
Prosecutors had accused Berlusconi of funneling money through holding company All Iberian to fund the Socialist Party (search) of former Italian Premier Bettino Craxi (search) in 1991 and of false bookkeeping to cover up the transfers.
Berlusconi and Craxi were close friends, and the late premier promoted policies that helped Berlusconi expand his media empire.
Italian law was changed a few years ago, when Berlusconi's majority in parliament pushed through a measure to generally decriminalize false bookkeeping.
The center-left opposition had accused Berlusconi of lobbying for the change to protect his own business interests. Berlusconi has contended the reforms protect the interests of all Italian citizens.
The Senate whip for the opposition Greens party (search), Stefano Boco, contended that the court decision was further proof that Berlusconi and his coalition allies "make laws for their own use and consumption."
An appeals court in 1999 cleared Berlusconi of other charges stemming from the All Iberian investigation.
In Monday's ruling, the court also cleared three other executives who worked in Berlusconi's business empire.
Berlusconi has been prosecuted over several dealings related to his business interests. He has steadfastly said that he is the innocent victim of prosecutors he contends sympathize with the left.
In several cases, Berlusconi has been either acquitted or has seen the charges dropped because the statute of limitations ran out.
The decriminalizing of false bookkeeping led to his being cleared in 2002 in another case, a financial investigation of the 1992 transfer of a soccer star to AC Milan (search), the team Berlusconi owns.