The Italian parliament last night approved a law giving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution.
The controversial law makes it impossible to prosecute the Italian Prime Minister during his term in office.
Despite protests from the weakened centre-left opposition, the senate gave final approval for legislation halting criminal trials against Italy's top four elected officials, including Mr Berlusconi, while they are in office.
Critics say the measure was tailor-made for the 71-year-old, who has faced numerous corruption charges, including a high-profile graft case against him and British lawyer David Mills in Milan.
Mr Berlusconi has dismissed the court cases describing them as harassment by politically-biased prosecutors and judges.
‘Citizens have the right to know if their prime minister is or isn't a criminal,’ said centre-left lawmaker Antonio Di Pietro, a former anti-graft magistrate.
However, allies say the measure will allow Italy's top officials, also including the president and heads of both chambers of parliament, to govern without legal distraction.
Mr Berlusconi, elected to a third term as Prime Minister in April with a strong parliamentary majority, says politically motivated prosecutors have been out to get him since he entered politics 14 years ago.
He counts 2,500 hearings, 587 visits by the police and €174m in legal fees. The media tycoon has won all of the cases against him so far, either by outright acquittal or because time had run out under Italy's statute of limitations.