26 October, 2012
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Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
(AFP Photo / Andreas
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has
been sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion by a Milan court.
His sentence was immediately reduced to one year
under a 2006 amnesty plan to ease overcrowding in in Italian jails. The
court also ruled on Friday that Berlusconi is forbidden from holding any
government post for three years.
His lawyer called the decision "incredible" and is hoping for a different
ruling upon appeal.
Berlusconi decried what he claimed was a politicized verdict stemming from
what he views as left-leaning magistrates while speaking on his Mediaset
television station Friday.
"If you can't count on impartial judges in a
country, the country becomes uncivil, barbarian and unlivable and stops
being a democracy. It's sad, but the situation of our country today is
that way," he said.
The likelihood of Berlusconi actually spending
time behind bars remains to be seen, as verdicts in Italy are only finalized
after passing through two stages of appeal.
The fact that three-years were immediately shed
from his sentence has served to deflate his opponents hoping that charges
would eventually stick after the ex-PM’s long and seemingly never-ending
The statute of limitations in the current case is set to expire at some
point next year.
Berlusconi and 10 other defendants were
charged with a scheme to purchase the television
rights for US movies to be broadcast on the three time premier's
private television networks via a complex web of offshore companies.
The prosecution says Berlusconi and his partner
Fedele Confalonieri then falsely declared payments to their
Mediaset TV company to avoid paying taxes.
They were also accused of artificially inflating prices for the TV rights of
some 3,000 firms which were relicensed on Berlusconi's networks, earning 250
million euro in illegal profits in the process.
The ruling in protracted 6-year legal battle comes two days after
Berlusconi, 76, announced he would not run to reclaim his former position as
Italy’s prime minister in upcoming parliamentary elections.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives at Milan's justice court
before a legal hearing
in the Mediatrade case over allegations
of fiscal fraud and breach of
trust in his business interests on May 2, 2011.
(AFP Photo / Olivier Morin)
Berlusconi tendered his resignation last November amid Italy's spiraling
The verdict on Friday marks the first time Berlusconi has been convicted in
court despite a series of past trials that ended in acquittal or were thrown
out on legal technicalities.
Italy’s longest-serving premier held office for three terms, totaling
nine-and-a-half years. He will likely be better remembered for his
association with a string of high-profile sex scandals than for his
A chain of allegations and dubious reports have surrounded Berlusconi since
2007, but the most notorious case erupted in 2010 when a 17-year-old
Moroccan dancer named Karima - known as ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’ - revealed
that Berlusconi gave her 7,000 Euros and jewelry.
The dancer denied having sexual intercourse with Berlusconi, but vividly
described the scandalous private parties thrown by the media tycoon.
Karima El Mahroug
(AFP Photo / Joe Klamar)
Ruby’s now infamous erotic ritual, whereby nude women formed a ring around
Berlusconi and/or his friends in some form of aquatic orgy, permanently
seared the phrase “bunga-bunga” into the popular consciousness.
All of his highly publicized PR moments were not equally pleasant.
In December 2009, an enraged local with a
history of mental illness lobbed a statuette of the Milan cathedral at
Berlusconi’s head while he was making a public appearance in his home city.
The then prime minister suffered two broken teeth and a broken nose and was
hospitalized for treatment.
Apart from raucous bashes or getting raucously bashed, Berlusconi was long
accused of using his media empire to bolster his political career, and was
regularly accused of bribery, corruption and ties to the mob.
In October 2009, the media mogul claimed he was,
“the most legally persecuted man of all
Berlusconi claimed to have subjected to over
2,500 court hearings, costing him 200 million euro in the process.
Silvio Berlusconi (C) reacts
after being assaulted in Milan
on December 13, 2009 as he
leaves a political meeting
(AFP Photo / ANSA / Livio