Lawyers representing firms linked to Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi have won a major victory in their attempts to have ruled illegal a police raid in Hong Kong early last year. Mr Justice John Saunders in the Court of First Instance yesterday agreed to issue a letter of request to Italian authorities seeking to examine four Italian nationals who it is alleged illegally took part in the raid on the offices of Harmony Gold and the homes of two of its directors. The company, one of its directors and two other associated companies have applied for a judicial review of the circumstances leading up to and including the raid, which took place on January 18, 2007. Mr Berlusconi is one of multiple defendants in a long-running case involving accusations of tax fraud, embezzlement and false accounting that has also seen legal action taken in the United States, Ireland and Switzerland. Among the 11 other defendants is the tax-lawyer husband of British Olympics minister Tessa Jowell. The letter of request, if acceded to by Italy, will see lawyers from both sides as well as Mr Justice Saunders and other representatives of the Hong Kong judiciary journey to Milan to examine the four Italians, two of whom are believed to be forensic accountants for KPMG. The other two are government prosecutors. The hearings, if they occur, will take place in an Italian courtroom under Hong Kong rules of evidence and procedure. The Court of Appeal in February cleared the way for the issuance of the letter after dismissing an appeal by the Department of Justice against Mr Justice Saunders' finding that he had jurisdiction to issue such a document. In agreeing to issue the letter, Mr Justice Saunders dismissed the contention that it was unlikely Italy would allow the two prosecutors to be examined. 'I am satisfied that the question is one which can be safely left to the Italian authorities and courts,' the judge said. 'The issue does not provide a proper basis to refuse the letter of request.' Mr Justice Saunders said it was in his view unthinkable that a foreign state might request the help of the Hong Kong government and then expect the actions of any of its representatives that it chose to send as part of that request to remain unexaminable. Sources close to the case said it was not known how long it would take for Italy to respond to the letter. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said last night: 'We are examining the judgment and will then decide if any further action is required.'