By Sara Rossi (Reuters/Business Day)
Executive summary (SAIT Technical)
Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime minister, was sentenced to for years in jail for tax fraud. The fraud relates to the purchase of broadcasting rights by his television company, Mediaset. Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, became prime minister for a second time in 2001 after winning a landslide election victory. Berlusconi's lawyers did not agree with the ruling and indicated their intention to appeal.
MILAN — Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in jail on Friday for tax fraud in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
The 76-year-old billionaire, who was convicted three times during the 1990s in the first degree before being cleared by higher courts, has the right to appeal the ruling two more times before the sentence becomes definitive. He will not be jailed unless he loses the final appeal.
The ruling comes two days after Berlusconi confirmed he would not run in next year’s elections as the leader of his People of Freedom (PDL) party, ending almost 19 years as the dominant politician of the centre-right.
Milan Judge Edoardo d’Avossa told a packed court that between 2000 and 2003, there had been "a very significant amount of tax evasion” and "an incredible mechanism of fraud” in place around the buying and selling of broadcast rights.
The court’s written ruling said Berlusconi showed a "natural capacity for crime”.
Berlusconi lawyers Piero Longo and Niccolo Ghedini said the ruling was "totally divorced from all judicial logic”, adding that they hoped the "atmosphere” at the appeals courts would be different.
Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, became prime minister for a second time in 2001 after winning a landslide election victory. Even while he was prime minister, he remained in effective charge of Mediaset even though he had handed over control of day-to-day operations, the court said.
The four-time prime minister and other Mediaset executives stood accused of inflating the price paid for TV rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi and skimming off part of the money to create illegal slush funds.
The investigation focused on television and cinema rights that Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest bought via offshore companies from Hollywood studios.
The court also ordered damages provisionally set at €10m to be paid by Berlusconi and his co-defendants to tax authorities.