Italy’s Berlusconi Guilty of Tax Fraud

Posted October 26th, 2012 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to a year in prison.

A Milan court Friday found the 76-year-old media magnate guilty in a case linked to the purchase of U.S. film and television rights on behalf of Mediaset, Italy's largest private television company that he controls. Prosecutors had accused Berlusconi and other officials of fraudulently declaring the cost of the U.S. productions in order to cut their tax bills.

Despite years of criminal probes of his activities, it is the first time that Berlusconi has been handed a prison term. The court at first imposed a four-year term, but then cut it to one.

Mr. Berlusconi had either been acquitted or the statute of limitations had run out on other cases. He is expected to appeal the tax fraud conviction, with Italian law requiring two levels of review before a verdict is considered final.

The flamboyant Berlusconi is still on trial on charges of paying an underage woman for sex and abusing his office as prime minister.

The Milan court banned Berlusconi from holding office for three years. Just this week, he announced he would not seek another term as prime minister. He was ousted from the government last November as Italy became one of the focal points of the governmental debt crisis in the euro currency bloc.