Italy’s top court has confirmed a lower court’s decision to sentence former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to jail time, the Local reports.
Berlusconi’s sentence of four years jail time in a tax fraud case was upheld, the first clear conviction against the media tycoon and centre right politician. Another decision by the lower court that would have seen Berlusconi banned from public office will be reviewed.
The verdict is less drastic than it sounds. While Berlusconi is technically sentenced to four years in prison, three of these years will be null due to an amnesty and Berlusconi’s age (76) means that he is likely to be placed under house arrest rather than go to a prison.
Today’s decision should be the 76-year-old’s last chance to overturn the fraud conviction from last year. 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 had 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).
Perhaps counter-intuitively, this may be bad news for Italy. Reuters notes that Italy’s coalition government, featuring Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s PDL might fall into crisis, with serious fallout across the euro zone.
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