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Italy's Berlusconi wins alimony case; ex-wife told to pay back millions

MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi need no longer pay his ex-wife 1.4 million euros ($1.7 million) a month, an Italian court said on Thursday, ruling the former prime minister had been unfairly treated in a divorce settlement.

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The Milan appeals court also told Veronica Lario, a former actress, to hand back to Berlusconi alimony payments totaling some 60 million euros, saying she had no right to the money.

The good news for the tycoon politician comes as his political career - considered dead and buried only a year ago - is also back on the rise.

The Milan case follows a landmark ruling by Italy’s top appeals court in May that said divorce settlements need not guarantee spouses their previous standard of living but rather ensure they were financially independent.

Berlusconi, Italy’s seventh richest man, according to Forbes, with a wealth estimated at about 7 billion euros, was married to Lario for more than 22 years.

They split in 2009, with the normally reserved Lario writing to Italy’s national news agency to denounce her husband’s interest in other women. Their divorce was formalized in 2014.

Following their separation, Berlusconi was embroiled in scandals over his “bunga bunga” parties and convicted of paying to have sex with a 17-year-old minor. The verdict was later overturned when an appeals court said it could not be proved he knew she was underage.

Berlusconi’s partner of the last five years is Francesca Pascale, a former television show girl 49 years his junior.

A court in 2012 initially awarded Lario alimony of three million euros a month. This was subsequently cut to 1.4 million, but Berlusconi complained it was still too high.

A legal source said the Milan judges took into consideration the May Supreme Court ruling and decided that Lario, who has cash deposits of some 16 million euros as well as jewels and a real estate business, did not need additional monthly income.

There was no immediate comment from Lario or her lawyers.

Reporting by Manuela D’Alessandro; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy