1 Aug 2013

Berlusconi sentence upheld – but he won’t see prison cell

Italy’s supreme court says former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi should be jailed for tax fraud. But sentencing reforms mean the media tycoon will not serve his time behind bars.

Anti-Berlusconi protesters outside court (Reuters)

After a three-day hearing, the five judges of the supreme court rejected Berlusconi’s final appeal against the verdict handed down by two lower courts in Milan sentencing him to four years in jail.

But the jail term has been reduced to one year under an amnesty.

And because of his age, 76-year-old Berlusconi can do community service or stay under house arrest instead of jail.

Read more: How does Berlusconi stay out of jail?

The sentence is unlikely to take effect until the autumn because of bureaucratic delays.

And the judges have ordered a judicial review of the second part of his sentence, a five-year ban from public office.

This review will enable Berlusconi him to remain leader of his centre-right People of Freedom Party and keep his place in the Italian senate.

Berlusconi was convicted over the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television empire.

It was his first proper conviction after being involved in up to 30 court cases on charges ranging from fraud and corruption to having sex with an underage prostitute.

The verdict could end Berlusconi’s 20-year domination of Italian politics and destabilise the three-month-old coalition government led by centre-left Democratic Party prime minister Enrico Letta.

Left-wingers unhappy at sharing power with Berlusconi’s party have threatened a mass walkout of ministers and public protests including blocking motorways with demonstrations if he was convicted.