For almost two decades in politics, billionaire Silvio Berlusconi has faced over 20 trials on charges ranging from false accounting to having sex with under-aged prostitutes. However, this time, Italy’s Supreme Court has upheld the four-year prison sentence given to the former prime minister for tax fraud. This will probably lead on to community service and house arrest. In the past he has either been acquitted or has seen the charges dropped.
In 2002 and 2003, Mediaset, the television company owned by Berlusconi (and Italy’s dominant private broadcaster), bought US TV and film rights at inflated prices that allowed the company to fraudulently lower its tax bill.
Berlusconi and Mediaset repeatedly deny these charges. The former prime minister’s lawyers argued that the sums claimed, about £6m, were too small to be of any interest to the billionaire.
The 76-year-old is unlikely to go to jail because most convicts in Italy over the age of 70 are given house arrest or community service. The courts have also delayed the five-year ban on Berlusconi holding political office. During this time he is quite free to retain his Senate seat.
Some argue that this will undermine Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government and produce frictions within the Italian parliament.
Silvio said ‘Twenty years of service to my country has been rewarded with a groundless sentence that deprives me of my personal freedom and political rights.’