[QODLink]
Europe
Berlusconi sentenced in tax evasion case
Court in Milan hands down prison term after convicting ex-Italian prime minister in long-drawn-out case.
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2012 05:47

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, has been sentenced by a Milan court for tax fraud connected to his Mediaset television channels and also banned from holding public office for five years.

The court sentenced him on Friday to four years but later cut it to one year because of an amnesty law which reduces the sentences of all crimes committed up to May 2006.

In addition to the prison sentence, Berlusconi and 10 co-defendants were ordered to pay 10m euros ($13m) to Italian tax authorities, a statement said.

Berlusconi, 76, is considered certain to stave off any imprisonment or ban on his political activities by appealing through higher courts.

The Milan court also said Berlusconi could not hold public office for five years or manage any company for three years, penalties that would take force only if the conviction is upheld.

The tax scam helped to create secret overseas accounts and reduce profits to pay fewer taxes in Italy.

Big consequences

Berlusconi was accused of having artificially inflated the price of film distribution rights bought by shell companies, then selling these back to his Mediaset empire.

The prosecution had asked for a prison sentence of three years and eight months for Berlusconi.

Al Jazeera's Claudio Lavanga, reporting from Rome, said: "Does it mean he'll go to prison immediately? Probably not, as there are two levels of appeal, but this conviction is certainly unexpected, and will have big consequences.

"His conviction will affect his political party, as well as the right.

"Furthermore, there has already been a strong reaction on the stock market as a result, showing that Berlusconi is paying the price economically at least."

In a phone call to his Italia 1 private network, Berlusconi, who will remain free pending appeals, said: "It is a political conviction that I can define perfectly well as incredible and intolerable."

Connection denied

Berlusconi denied that there was any connection between this case and his decision to step aside and allow another centre-right candidate to seek the premiership.

"My lawyers and I never thought that such a conviction would be possible," he said.

Fabio De Pasquale, the prosecutor, said in June that Mediaset costs for the films had been inflated by $368m from 1994 to 1998, and by 40m euros from 2001 to 2003.

Berlusconi was at "the top of the chain of command in the sector of television rights until 1998", he said at the time.

De Pasquale had asked for a prison sentence of three years and four months for Fedele Confalonieri, Mediaset's president.

However, Confalonieri, who was a close Berlusconi aide in his business dealings, was acquitted on Friday.

424

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
join our mailing list