(Adds response from Berlusconi’s lawyers, paragraph 6)
MILAN, June 18 (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors asked a court on Monday to sentence former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to three years and eight months in jail for fraud in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
Prosecutors also asked for a jail sentence of three years and four months for Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri.
Berlusconi and other executives at Mediaset are accused of inflating the price paid for television rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi, and skimming off part of the money to create illegal slush funds.
“The slush funds bear the fingerprints of Berlusconi,” said prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale in his accusatory speech.
Berlusconi and all other defendants in the trial have denied the accusations.
“The sums cited today by the prosecutor are totally nonexistent and far removed from the charges, and refer to arguments that have been refuted by the judicial process,” Berlusconi lawyers Piero Longo and Niccolo Ghedini said in a statement.
The investigation centred on television and cinema rights that Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest bought via offshore companies from U.S. groups for 470 million euros in 1994-1999.
Public prosecutors believe that the offshore companies sold the rights on to Mediaset at an inflated price in order to avoid taxes and create slush funds for Berlusconi.
The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for July 2. (Reporting by Manuela D’Alessandro; Editing by Kevin Liffey)