Former Italian PM Berlusconi sentenced to prison for tax fraud
Silvio Berlusconi, the 76-year-old former Italian Prime Minister, has been charged with tax fraud in a Milan court and sentenced to time in prison.
The persecutors accused Berlusconi of buying US film rights at inflated prices and using the excess money to create illegal slush funds reducing tax liability for his group Mediaset.
Although Berlusconi was initially handed a jail sentence of four years, this has now been reduced to one year due to a 2006 amnesty law aimed at reducing overcrowding in prisons. He has also been banned from serving in public office for three years, a verdict announced just two days after Berlusconi stated he will not be running for premier in the next elections.
In addition to the jail term, Berlusconi and associates are required to pay roughly €10 million (£8 million) in damages.
However, despite the sentence, the ex-prime minister remains free pending a possible appeal. The jail term and office ban will only apply if the sentence is help up in a higher court, says Italian news company Ansa.
According to The Guardian, Antonio Di Pietro, a political rival of Berlusconi and former magistrate judge, praised the verdict saying: “The truth has been exposed.”
Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, Berlusconi’s lawyers, however, say the sentence is “incredible” and “lacks legal logic”.
Eleven other people were tried in all, one of whom, Fedele Confalonieri, a long standing friend of Berlusconi and Mediaset chairman, was acquitted, although prosecutors were chasing a three-year four-month sentence.
The sentence marks progress in a trail that began six years ago and has been subjected to numerous delays, in part due to an immunity law that protected Berlusconi while he was serving PM.
Over the years Berlusconi has been at the centre of many controversies and legal battles. He is currently also on trial and charged with paying for sex with an under-aged girl, although he denies any such wrong doing.