Venerdì, 21 Settembre 2018

Berlusconi's lawyers present case for fraud acquittal


(By Christopher Livesay)
Rome, July 31 - Anxiety over the fate of the
Italian government was put on hold one day longer Wednesday as
judges at the supreme Cassation Court continued deliberation in
the fraud case of Silvio Berlusconi, who risks a prison sentence
and a ban from public office, and who many fear may bring down
the executive in retaliation.
In an attempt to allay such concerns, Italy's transport
minister said he did not believe the verdict now expected
Thursday would have "repercussions" on the left-right coalition.
"This government was born thanks to a sense of
responsibility," said Maurizio Lupi, referring to the
center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, his own and
Berlusconi's, and the center-left Democratic Party (PD), of
Premier Enrico Letta.
Since its formation in April, the unprecedented coalition
has been perceived as highly volatile for putting natural
political enemies under the same tent.
Members of Berlusconi's party have threatened to pull their
support if their leader's four-year conviction and five-year ban
from public office is upheld in a fraud verdict anticipated
Thursday, in what would be a definitive ruling on accusations of
overseeing a system of manipulating film rights and setting up
oversees slush funds to launder money and evade taxes on around
seven million euros in 2002 and 2003.
Due to an amnesty passed in 2006, Berlusconi would likely
only serve one year of the prison term if convicted.
But the ban from office would stick if ratified by
parliament, which is likely in such cases.
Prosecutors have asked that it be reduced to three years in
what has been interpreted by some pundits as an olive-branch
maneuver to make conviction more likely and a possible backlash
less severe.
If the PdL leaves the coalition, the government would
"I hope that Berlusconi's sentence isn't upheld, that the
sense of responsibility prevails, and that people keep their
nerve," said Lupi, evoking the sense of bipartisanship that made
the current government possible.
"Without these fundamental conditions, the economic crisis
will never end".
One of the media magnate's staunchest allies said he was
nervous as he awaited Cassation's verdict.
"Berlusconi is going through this wait with anxiety and
worry," Daniela Santanché, an MP for Berlusconi's People of
Freedom (PdL) party, said on Italian radio.
"In part this is because of what his lawyers have told him
and in part it is because of what he already knows - that if he
were a normal citizen he would certainly have been acquitted".
Berlusconi, who is sitting out hearings, denies any
wrongdoing and says the case is part of a judicial "persecution"
left-wing magistrates have directed at him since the media
magnate embarked on a political career 20 years ago.
Santanché said that she did not expect the Cassation to
overturn the conviction.
"This history of the last 20 years makes one think he will
be convicted," she said.
"A conviction would be a mutilation of democracy".
Berlusconi's defence team told the court Wednesday that
prosecutors had no proof of his guilt.
"An element of proof that Berlusconi may have taken part in
the actual crime is lacking in the fabric of the sentence," said
Niccolò Ghedini, one of Berlusconi's lawyers.
If the Cassation upholds the verdict, it will be the first
time Berlusconi, who has been at the centre of many criminal
cases since he started his political career two decades ago, has
received a definitive conviction.

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