Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for tax evasion by a Milan court, according to Reuters.The case revolved around a plan by Berlusconi’s Mediaset company to purchase the rights to broadcast U.S. movies on Berlusconi’s private television networks.
The defendants allegedly used a series of offshore companies to avoid paying taxes. The price of the films was then inflated as they were sold internally. The difference was pocketed by the defendants, and reportedly amounted to 250 million euros ($320 million).
One of his codefendents, Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri, was found not guilty.
Berlusconi has also been banned from politics for 3 years. Earlier this week he announced he was not planning to run in next year’s election, a move that now looks prescient.
The case against him and 10 others had begun in 2006, but had been delayed while he was Prime Minister due to immunity laws. He is widely expected to appeal the verdict — he has the right to two appeals, according to Reuters, and will not serve jail time until the appeals are complete.
Legal experts told Bloomberg they doubted he would serve any jail time at all due to Berlusconi’s age (76) and the risk of the statute of limitations running out.
This isn’t Berlusconi’s only legal woes of course; another Milan court is dealing with the accusations he had sexual relations with an underage prostitute.
UPDATE: Nick Squires of the Telegraph reports that Berlusconi’s sentence has already been reduced to 1 year, part of an amnesty law aimed at prison overpopulation.
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