2 Aug 2013

Is the end nigh for Silvio Berlusconi?

As Silvio Berlusconi faces the prospect of house arrest and a ban on running for office, Channel 4 News asks if the end is looming for Italy’s most colourful politician.

Silvio Berlusconi (G)

Berlusconi launched an angry tirade against the Italian justice system, accusing it of taking away his “personal freedom”, after the supreme court upheld his prison sentence for tax fraud.

After a three-day hearing, Italy‘s supreme court said that Berlusconi should be jailed for four years, though it is unlikely he will serve any time behind bars due to sentencing reforms.

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

Detenzione domiciliare

“[Berlusconi] will be able to apply for either ‘detenzione domiciliare’ (home arrest) or community service”, Giovanna Fiorentino, lawyer at Lansbury Worthington Solicitors told Channel 4 News.

She added: “It’s then up to the judge to decide which sentence to hand out.

“Under the curfew order, [Berlusconi] would have to spend 24 hours a day confined to a certain perimeter for the duration of the sentence.

“Police regularly attend the premises, but there is no electronic tag [to monitor them]”.

In Italy, the house arrest is a common practice of detaining suspects and is often seen as an alternative to prison for less serious offences or where there is no risk to the public.

According to the Italian ministry of justice there are currently 66,028 people behind bars in Italy and 10.760 under house arrest.

Stefano Maffei, professor of criminal procedure at the University of Parma, added: “Typically, individuals under home detention cannot leave the premises and cannot communicate with any person apart from those residents in the same place. So, no phone calls are allowed.

“This being said, courts may grant permission to walk out certain times a day, for work, if an income is necessary to secure basic living.

“Police can enter premises to ensure presence at any time. Leaving premises wihout court permission is equal to an escape from prison.”

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi’s 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 four-year ban from public office.

However Ms Fiorentino does not think any ban would necessarily mean an end to Berlusconi ‘s career.

She added: “[If the sentence goes ahead] Berlusconi will not be in public office for four years but he will still be a major player. He has always been able to reinvent himself.”

Dr Maffei added: “Berlusconi will continue to be an active political figure, although a conviction to four years means that he will no longer be able to run for parliamentary elections.”

Deprivation of freedom

However, professor of criminal law at Luiss University of Rome, Angelo Carmona, said that Berlusconi’s sentence could “end up being heavily restricting for the politician and media mogul”.

He said: “What I think nobody really took note of is that the consequence of this verdict will not be freedom but a deprivation of freedom. What normally happens in these cases is that the judge, while ordering either house arrest or community service, imposes requirements which are requirements that are restrictive.

“For instance, you may only see your wife, your children and your housekeeper but you cannot see the CEO of your company. The judge may also place limits to the political activities that can or cannot be carried out.

“This goes beyond some of the comments from yesterday which seemed to suggest that the house arrest was a minor thing and that he would just retreat to one of his residences for one year and from there continue with his activities,” he said.

If Berlusconi were to spend 12 months under house arrest, he has several options to choose from. Channel 4 News looks at three of his private properties.
Villa San Martino

Located near Milan, this huge houses is where Berlusconi spends most of his time and is where he held many of his infamous 'Bunga Bunga' parties. He bought it for an estimated £100,000 in 1974. Berlusconi recently added a mausoleum complete with a pink sarcophagus.
Villa Correnti

Berlusconi bought this 30 room villa in 2008. It has its own helipad - useful for flying in VIP's - and is accessible from the banks of Lake Maggiore. The mansion was previously owned by the Garavoglia family who make the aperitif Campari.
Villa Certosa

Berlusconi paid €450m in 1988 for this complex on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda. It has it has its own underground cave with a swimming pool connecting the Villa directly to the sea. It is also infamous for being the location where he held some of his famous parties.

Source: www.bornrich.com