Italian prosecutors asked a Milan court on Wednesday to sentence Silvio Berlusconi to five years in prison on charges of paying British lawyer David Mills a $600,000 (382,000 pound) bribe to lie about the former prime minister's business interests.

But even if the media tycoon is found guilty, he is not likely to go to jail because the case, which dates to 1997, will be overtaken in a few months by the statute of limitations.

The scandal-plagued Berlusconi, who was forced out of power in November as Italy faced a perilous debt crisis, faces three other trials on charges including tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer.

Milan prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale told the court on Wednesday that the bribery charge would be overtaken by the statute of limitations between early May and mid-July.

Mills, husband of former British cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, has already had a 4-1/2-year jail sentence for taking the bribe quashed by the statute.

Mills told the trial in December that he lied when he told British tax authorities that he had received the $600,000 payment from a Berlusconi associate, and said the former prime minister had nothing to do with the case.

He said he was deeply ashamed for implicating him.

Prosecutors allege that Berlusconi paid Mills to lie under oath in separate court cases.

Berlusconi, 75, denies all charges against him, saying he is being hounded by politically motivated left-wing magistrates.

Berlusconi's lawyers say the charges in the Mills case have already expired and that the three-judge panel is biased against their client.

They have asked for other judges to take over the case. A separate court is expected to decide on this request on February 18.

Berlusconi, already on trial for separate charges of tax fraud and in the Rubygate sex scandal, will face a new case on

March 15 on charges of revealing confidential information related to a 2005 banking scandal.

The Mills trial is due to continue on February 25. A verdict could come in the spring.

(Reporting by Sara Rossi; Writing by Antonella Ciancio, Danilo Masoni; Editing by Barry Moody and Alessandra Rizzo)