Mercoledì, 26 Settembre 2018

Berlusconi tax-fraud conviction upheld, becomes final


Rome, August 1 - Italy's supreme Court of Cassation
upheld a tax-fraud conviction against ex-premier Silvio
Berlusconi Thursday, making a four-year prison sentence
It is the first time Berlusconi has received a definitive
conviction after over two dozen criminal cases since the media
magnate embarked on a political career two decades ago.
Three years of the sentence are not effective because of a
2006 amnesty.
As Berlusconi is over 70, he will probably not have to
serve the remaining year in prison, but will be given social
work or house arrest as punishment
The court suspended a five-year ban on Berlusconi holding
public office, sending this part of the punishment back to the
Milan appeals court for review.
State prosecutors requested the ban be reduced to three
years earlier this week.
There were fears the ruling would have consequences for
Premier Enrico Letta's fragile left-right government, which
needs the support of Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom
(PdL) party to survive.
But Berlusconi has said several times that his legal
problems and the government are separate issues and a senior PdL
member said the party would keep backing the government after
the ruling.
"We were expecting a different result but as we are at the
service of the country, we'll continue to support the
government," Francesco Nitto Palma, the president of the Senate
justice commission, said after leaving Berlusconi's Rome
residence following the announcement of the ruling.
Some PdL lawmakers had threatened the party would pull its
backing and sink the government if the sentence was not
overturned, saying their leader is the victim of persecution by
left-wing magistrates targeting him for political reasons.
There have also been threats that they would quit en masse
and that eventual protests would include road blocks on
Letta called for cool heads.
"Now it's necessary for a climate of serenity, even in the
legitimate debate within the political parties, and an
institutional approach that makes the interest of Italy
prevail," Letta said.
The decision was announced after the five Cassation judges
huddled for consultations for over six hours over the case.
The three-time Italian premier has been found guilty of
masterminding a system of inflated film-rights purchases at his
Mediaset media empire and the use of offshore companies to
create slush funds.
This enabled Mediaset to dodge taxes on around seven
million euros in 2002 and 2003.
Berlusconi's defence was that he had nothing to do with
these dealings or authorising them as he was too occupied with
political matters. He was premier at the time.
Berlusconi's defence lawyers said Thursday they are
considering taking his four-year jail term for tax fraud to the
European level.
"The sentence can only cause dismay," said the lawyers,
Franco Coppi, Niccolo' Ghedini and Piero Longo. "There were very
solid reasons and legal arguments for a full acquittal.
"We will assess and take every initiative necessary,
including in European seats, so that this unjust sentence is
radically reformed".
As the ban on holding public office has been sent to
review, Berlusconi will not be forced to step down as Senator or
quit the helm of the PdL immediately.
There is speculation that Berlusconi may now have his
oldest daughter, Marina, the chairwoman of the Fininvest family
holding company, installed as PdL leader, although she is
reportedly not keen on this.
Berlusconi also has more legal headaches on the horizon.
He is appealing against a seven-year sentence and a life
ban from office for paying an underage prostitute nicknamed Ruby
for sex and a one-year term for involvement in the publication
of a wiretap that hurt a political rival in separate cases.
He may also face trial for allegedly bribing a Senator to
change sides to contribute to the fall of a previous centre-left

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