2 Aug 2013

This is my reward’: Berlusconi berates Italian justice

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

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

But now the former Italian prime minister, in an emotional video message, has called for further reforms of the judicial system he labelled as “absolutely arbitrary… with the worst kind of power”.

In exchange for the commitments I have made over almost 20 years … I receive as a reward accusations and a verdict that is founded on absolutely nothing. Silvio Berlusconi

He started his video message by denying the crime for which he has been sentenced – the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television empire.

“I have never been a silent partner of anyone,” he said. “I never devised any system of fiscal fraud. No false invoice exists in the history of Mediaset, just like there are no hidden funds abroad that involve me or my family.

“I have to say that we are truly living in a country where the majority of crimes are not even tried, a country that doesn’t know how to be just, above all with its honest citizens, and towards all those like me who have always fulfilled their duties at work and in public life.”

‘Best citizens’

The controversial 76-year-old attacked the sentence as his “reward” for 20 years of public service, and refered to himself as one of Italy’s “best citizens”.

We need to continue our battle for freedom. Silvio Berlusconi

He added: “In exchange for the commitments I have made over almost 20 years in favour of my country and coming almost at the end of my public life, I receive as a reward accusations and a verdict that is founded on absolutely nothing, that takes away my personal freedom and my political rights.

“That is how Italy recognises the sacrifices and commitments of its best citizens. Is this the Italy that we love? Is this the Italy that we want? Absolutely not.”

Justice reform

Berlusconi also delivered a defiant message, calling for a relaunch of Forza Italia, his party which was dissolved in 2009, and then a major reform of the justice system.

He said: “We need to continue our battle for freedom, stay in the field and calling to join us for the sake of our joint futures the best youth and the best energy from the world of business, professions and work.

“Altogether, we will re-launch ‘Forza Italia’. And we will ask the Italians to give us the majority that is indispensable to re-organise the country to carry out reforms, starting with the most indispensable of all the reforms – the reform of the justice system – so we are no longer subjugated to an absolutely arbitrary system with the worst kind of power – the one that takes away the freedom of a person.

“From badness, as always, we need to find a way to bring out something good.”